Did CNN Downplay the COVID Risk of Pro-Biden Celebrations?

The term ‘superspreader’ was not used but coverage noted the lack of social distancing.

A viral article published by Fox News claims that “CNN doesn't sound alarm of COVID 'superspreaders' as thousands celebrate Biden win in the streets.” The article specifically calls out CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper for their “apparent double standard” in coverage of the pro-Biden celebrations on Saturday compared with their coverage of Trump rallies, noting the absence of the term “superspreader” in CNN’s coverage of Biden celebrations and saying that “the network's concerns about the possible spread of the virus were virtually non-existent Saturday.”

However, as noted in other Fox articles and by CNN itself, that isn’t entirely the case. While Blitzer’s criticism of the gatherings was limited to a comment about a lack of social distancing, and the words “superspreader event” were not used, Tapper repeatedly criticized celebrators for not socially distancing. 

While saying it was encouraging that many appeared to be wearing masks, Tapper stated in one segment: “They are not socially distancing. I hate to be a scold here. But we just had the highest day of infections in the United States, I believe, yesterday was 125,000 Americans with new coronavirus infections. That was the third straight day of more than 100,000. It's good to see people wearing masks, although for some of them they're slipping off their face. People also need to socially distance themselves.”

Later in the segment, Tapper added: “there are a lot of public health officials watching this right now and feeling agita, feeling concern.”

In another segment, Tapper said: “You see these crowds celebrating. We've been seeing images like this from coast to coast all day of people honking their horns and waving flags. People very excited they are outside the White House. We hope they're wearing masks obviously they're not social distancing, sufficiently again I hate to be a wet blanket but we are in the middle of a horrific pandemic that is spreading and getting even worse. So please wear masks and please avoid crowds as much as possible.”

He reiterated the point later, saying “Again, not to be the scold but we are in the middle of a pandemic and it is not the safest thing in the world for groups to gather but it is good to see people wearing masks” and “Joe Biden, winning is not going to get rid of the Coronavirus especially people continuing to gather especially without masks.”

Later, Tapper described the crowds outside of the White House as: “a lot of masks, which is good, although the crowds, according to public health officials, not so good.”

CNN on-the-ground reporters joined Tapper in pointing out the lack of social distancing, with correspondent Gary Tuchman saying “Two points of concern that you mentioned is Jake and it is very important to point out there is no social distancing here [in Atlanta].” Polo Sandoval reporting from New York said: “We should also mention that here there is very little to no social distancing but there are plenty of masks.”

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Photo by Mostafa Bassim Adly/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.