CDC Director Takes WaPo to Task Over an 'Inappropriate' Coronavirus Headline

Posted: Apr 22, 2020 7:55 PM
CDC Director Takes WaPo to Task Over an 'Inappropriate' Coronavirus Headline

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Washington Post on Tuesday published an interview conducted with Center for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield. Throughout the interview, Redfield warns that the fall will be complex because the normal flu season will take place in conjunction with a second wave of the Wuhan coronavirus. 

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told The Washington Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said.

Despite that quote, The WaPo's headline stated something President Donald Trump is calling "fake news."

"CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating," the headline reads, as of this writing.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing began on Wednesday by Dr. Redfield addressing and clarifying his remarks.

"I really do think it's important to clarify this as we build the confidence of the American people. When I commented yesterday that there was a possibility of the fall-winter, next fall and winter could be more difficult, more complicated, when we have two respiratory illnesses circulating at the same time: the flu and coronavirus 19," Redfield explained. "But I think it's important to emphasize what I didn't say. I didn't say that this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated because we'll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time."

According to the CDC director, it's important to make sure the health care system is in a mitigation mode so that come the fall and winter flu season we're at containment. He emphasized the importance of isolation, contact tracing, along with increased surveillance.

"The key to my comments, and the reason I want to address them, was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence," he said. "The greatest confidence we have as we go through the fall-winter season is to get the American public to embrace the influenza vaccine, thereby minimize the impact the flu to be the co-respiratory disease that we confront."

ABC News reporter Jon Karl pressed back on Redfield by reading the quote from The Washington Post. The director confirmed that his quote was accurate but the headline was false.

"This spring that we just went through, February, we had the benefit of having the flu season ended," Redfield explained. "So we could use all our flu surveillance systems to say, 'Whoops. This is coronavirus. We need to focus.' Next fall and winter we're going to have two viruses circulating and we're going to have to distinguish between which is flu and which is the coronavirus."

Karl pressed again, asking if the quotes were accurate. 

"I'm accurately quoted in The Washington Post," he said. "But the headline was inappropriate."

Karl tried making the case that the quote supports the headline, at which point President Trump stepped in.

"That's not what he says. That's not what he said," Trump hit back. "The headlined doesn't correspond –"

Although Dr. Redfield made it clear his quotes were accurate and the headline was "inappropriate," some reporters misrepresented the exchange:

And the sad part: the mainstream media wonders why Americans lack any faith in journalists and reporters. 

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