A conversation captured on a hot mic prior to the White House press briefing on Monday has gone viral on social media overnight.
The footage reportedly shows Fox News’ John Roberts and New York Times photographer Doug Mills discussing the coronavirus pandemic and suggesting the mortality rate is about a tenth of what it seems to be.
“What do you know, buddy?” Mills asks Roberts.
“You can take off your mask,” Roberts replied. “The case mortality rate is like 0.1 to 0.3. That’s according to the USC.”
Mediaite, who was first to report on the video, notes that Roberts was referencing a study from the University of Southern California that indicates the number of COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County far exceeds the number of confirmed cases, with potentially more than 400,000 residents having been infected at some point.
According to the study:
Based on results of the first round of testing, the research team estimates that approximately 4.1% of the county’s adult population has antibody to the virus. Adjusting this estimate for statistical margin of error implies about 2.8% to 5.6% of the county’s adult population has antibody to the virus- which translates to approximately 221,000 to 442,000 adults in the county who have had the infection. That estimate is 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the county by the time of the study in early April. The number of COVID-related deaths in the county has now surpassed 600.
“That’s reassuring,” the Times photographer responded. “Everybody here has been vaccinated anyway.”
“USC and LA County Public Health came out with a study. They found that there are 7,000 cases in California, but they really believe that there are anywhere between 221,000 and 442,000 people who’ve been infected,” Roberts said.
Mills went on to say the findings “Puts it right in line with the flu.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Roberts said. “That’s what it is, the flu.”
“Whoa… So it was a hoax?” Mills asked.
“No, I don’t believe it was a hoax,” Roberts replied.
Some media outlets have suggested the men were only joking during the exchange, but you can watch below and judge for yourself.