PolitiFact hits Larry Elder with dishonest ‘fact-check’ on eve of CA recall

PolitiFact has issued a dishonest fact-check against Republican California recall candidate Larry Elder, just days before the recall election is set to take place.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, PolitiFact issued a “false” rating to comments Elder made about COVID-19 protocols for children.

Summary

  • Elder shared a set of opinionated remarks about the state of scientific consensus surrounding COVID policies and children.
  • Elder said, “I don’t believe the science suggests that young people should be vaccinated. I don’t believe that young people should have to wear masks at school. I’m not sure the science is settled on that at all.”
  • Elder’s comments are, first and foremost, an opinion, as denoted by words like “I don’t believe . . .” and “I’m not sure . . .”
  • PolitiFact said Elder’s comments about children and vaccines were “false” because the CDC, FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “all recommend young people, ages 12 and up, receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • PolitiFact said Elder’s comments about masking as “false” because “leading health groups including the CDC and AAP recommend students wear masks at schools.”
  • Insofar as Elder’s comments are to be treated as factual statements, there are prominent opinions conflicting with those of the CDC, FDA and AAP.
  • PolitiFact’s statement that children 12 and up should be vaccinated, seems to acknowledge an entire group of children scientists at the CDC, FDA and AAP have not recommended be vaccinated: all of those under 12.
  • Last week, the BBC reported the U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation determined “the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination” for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.
  • The Telegraph also reported this week that a team lead by Dr Tracy Hoeg, at the University of California, found boys aged 12 to 17 saw up to 6.1 times more likely to be hospitalized from vaccine-relarted heart complications than from COVID-19.
  • In terms of masking, PolitiFact treats the CDC on masking in school as entirely consistent. An analysis by the New York Magazine found that the study the CDC relied on for masking in schools contained conflicting findings, including those undermining maskin in schools, that the CDC instead downplayed.

PolitiFact claimed as “false” an opinionated assessment by Elder of the scientific consensus on masking and vaccines in schools.

In general, Elder’s comments are never expressed in a manner that suggests an absolute statement of fact, but rather his belief, or rather lack of belief, in the science supporting masking and vaccines for school children.

In general it’s not a good habit for fact-checkers to issue demerits for opinions, because there is generally not a firm factual basis to examine. As for the scientific track-record on COVID, it is also odd that fact-checkers would issue stern determinations of fact, when scientists are in continued dispute about COVID-19 and how to handle it.

Insofar as Elder’s statement must be treated as a factual claim rather than an opinion, he also has some grounds to say what he has said. PolitiFact marks up the portion of Elder’s statement about vaccines for school children by writing “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend young people, ages 12 and up, receive the COVID-19 vaccine to protect their health and slow the pandemic.” PolitiFact’s own writing betrays the fact that COVID vaccines have not been recommended by the CDC, FDA and AAP for an entire group of children: those under 12. Children under 12 can often be found in schools.

Beyond the entire age group the CDC leaves out in its vaccine recommendation, there’s the fact that the CDC isn’t the only group of scientists and regulators with an opinion on vaccinating children. Last week, the U.K.s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended against vaccinating healthy 12 to 15 year olds. In their opinion, the JCVI said “the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination” healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.”

A new study, led by Dr Tracy Hoeg, at the University of California, also found boys aged 12 to 17 could have a much higher risk from vaccines than from COVID itself. According to the Telegraph, Hoeg’s research found the rate of heart complications for boys aged 12-15 following the vaccine was 162.2 per million, the highest out of all age groups they studied. Boys aged 16-17 had a rate of heart complications at a rate of 94.0 per million. The same study found the risk of a healthy boy needing hospital treatment owing to Covid-19 in the next 120 days is 26.7 per million. That study suggests, depending on age, as much as 6.1 times the risk of heart problems due to vaccines than hospitalization from COVID itself.

As for masking, PolitiFact is quick to reiterate that the CDC has recommended masks in school. But the CDC’s recommendation may not have been given with complete honesty. New York Magazine wrote in an article published on August 20, that in supporting masking, the CDC touted a study in May whose own findings suggested masking may not be all that effective.

New York Magazine wrote:

At the end of May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a notable, yet mostly ignored, large-scale study of COVID transmission in American schools. A few major news outlets covered its release by briefly reiterating the study’s summary: that masking then-unvaccinated teachers and improving ventilation with more fresh air were associated with a lower incidence of the virus in schools. Those are common-sense measures, and the fact that they seem to work is reassuring but not surprising. Other findings of equal importance in the study, however, were absent from the summary and not widely reported. These findings cast doubt on the impact of many of the most common mitigation measures in American schools. Distancing, hybrid models, classroom barriers, HEPA filters, and, most notably, requiring student masking were each found to not have a statistically significant benefit. In other words, these measures could not be said to be effective.

The AAP also does not give a perfect endorsement of masking. Lloyd Fisher, the president of the Massachusetts chapter of AAP told New York Magazine, “Mask-wearing among children is generally considered a low-risk mitigation strategy; however, the negatives are not zero, especially for young children. It is important for children to see facial expressions of their peers and the adults around them in order to learn social cues and understand how to read emotions.”

Another AAP pediatrician told New York Magazine, “There are very good reasons that the World Health Organization has repeatedly affirmed their guidance for children under 6 to not wear masks. Reading faces is critical for social emotional learning. And all children are actively learning language the first five years of life, for which seeing faces is foundational.”

PolitiFact issued Elder a “false” rating based on a set of opinions that are supported by scientists. The erroneous fact check comes just days before the September 14 California Recall vote against Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom. Elder is a Republican contender if the recall vote goes through.

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