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PolitiFact ‘Fact-Check’ Misleads in Defense of Gov. Cuomo in Ventilator Fiasco

‘Trump’s statement is inaccurate. We rate it False…’

Cuomo Says Trump is Punishing New York for Being Too Blue
Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump/AP Photos

(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) When news that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo failed to buy lifesaving breathing ventilators reached President Donald Trump, the native New Yorker scolded Cuomo during a national television interview.

“He should’ve ordered the ventilators. He had a choice; he had a chance,” Trump told Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer on Tuesday. “New York Governor Cuomo rejected buying recommended 16,000 ventilators in 2015 for a pandemic, and established death panels and lotteries instead.”

New York City is now engulfed in contagious Wuhan virus infections and leads the nation in positive cases and deaths.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has repeatedly said New York needs thousands more ventilators to deal with the crisis. The same day as Trump’s remarks, Cuomo pegged the number at 30,000 ventilators and said only the federal government could deliver them.

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That didn’t stop Cuomo from ramping-up criticism of the president in spite of the vast federal resources New York has received at Trump’s behest. In response, Trump reiterated Cuomo’s malfeasance during the Fox interview: “He had a chance to buy 16,000 ventilators at a very low price and he turned it down.”

But the liberal fact-checking website PolitiFact took offense at Trump’s assertion and tried to disprove it.

“Trump’s statement is inaccurate. We rate it False,” PolitiFact concluded.

Trump referred to a 2015 report conducted by a state task force and the New York Department of Health. Among many findings, the report cited a critical shortage of 16,000 ventilators that would be needed during a severe influenza-like pandemic. The 266-page report, titled “Ventilator Allocation Guidelines,” also outlined procedures for rationing access to the breathing devices if the state’s ventilator supply remained insufficient.

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Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (CC)
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PolitiFact, however, cast aspersions on Trump’s comments by stating that he “appeared to be reading, word-for-word, a March 22 headline on the Gateway Pundit, a conservative website.”

But the article in question is based on information from Betsy McCaughey, a former New York lieutenant governor and Republican. McCaughey’s analysis of Cuomo’s performance regarding the ventilator fiasco has been widely published.

“Cuomo could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015,” she wrote in a syndicated commentary this week. “It’s a lot of money but less than the $750 million he threw away on a boondoggle ‘Buffalo Billion’ solar panel factory.”

While acknowledging that Cuomo didn’t buy the 16,000 ventilators, PolitiFact defaulted to word games by basing its conclusion on the fact that the 2015 state government report didn’t expressly recommend the purchase, though it was self-evident. It only identified the critical shortage and was silent on the price of the equipment.

“The report does not indicate that the state had the funds to buy 16,000 additional ventilators ‘at a very low price,’ as Trump said. It also does not say that the task force recommended to the governor buying 16,000, or that he turned down that suggestion,” wrote PolitiFact.

The fact-checking analysis mirrors comments made by Cuomo’s communications director, who parsed the terms “advised” and “recommended.”

“This was a five-year-old advisory task force report, which never recommended the state procure ventilators — it merely referenced that New York wouldn’t be equipped with enough ventilators for a 1918 flu pandemic,” Dani Lever told PolitiFact.

PolitiFact also took issue with the notion of “death panels,” which it attributed to Sarah Palin when referencing Obamacare in 2009.

Death panels was the term used to describe committees and officials that decide who receives lifesaving treatment and who is denied access to care in rationing situations, whether created by health care policy or an equipment shortage.

PolitiFact emphatically rejected that the report included death panels, but again played word games when explaining that state health officials “acknowledge that in case of ventilator shortage, hospitals would need to make difficult decisions about what patients would get access to the available ventilators in order to save the most lives.”

Cuomo has been praised by many Democrats for alleged great leadership during the Wuhan virus crisis and he’s even been rumored to serve as a unifying presidential candidate if Democrats have a brokered convention.

Trump doesn’t necessarily think states like New York need as many ventilators as they’re asking for, but that’s beside the point regarding Cuomo, he said.

“I’m not blaming him,” said Trump. “But he shouldn’t be talking about us.”

“We’re building him four hospitals. We’re building him four medical centers. “We’re working very, very hard for the people of New York. Then, I watch him on some show and he’s complaining.”

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