A WHITE HOUSE microphone blunder has sparked a flurry of conspiracy theories after officials were recorded in the briefing room prior to Donald Trump’s address joking that “everyone around here has been vaccinated” and calling the pandemic “a hoax”.
A bizarre exchange in the White House briefing room just minutes before Donald Trump took to the podium has sparked a frenzy of conspiracy theories. A hot microphone left on in the White House press briefing room sparked controversy, after a journalist was overheard joking that everyone there had been vaccinated against the coronavirus pandemic. The hot mic in the room captured a conversation between Fox News reporter John Roberts and New York Times photographer Doug Mills, in which they also joked about the pandemic being a hoax.
In the footage, Roberts could be seen telling Mills to take off his mask, before he quoted statistics from a recent California study that recorded the fatality rate around seasonal flu levels.
However, the study from the University of Southern California (USC) also suggested that the infection rate in the state was likely much higher than originally reported.
The two journalists were chatting before the official press briefing, with Roberts telling Mills: “You can take off the mask, the case fatality rate is 0.1 to 0.3 according to USC.”
Mills then responded by joking: “Is it really? That’s reassuring. We’ve all been vaccinated around here.”
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The conversation went viral, with one video on Twitter racking up at least 1.3 million views to date.
White House briefings are often streamed live with some US outlets carrying the feeds in advance with audio and video switched on before the events begin.
Later in the conversation, Roberts is heard quoting statistics, saying: “USC and LA County public health came out with a study that found that there are 7,000 cases in California but they really believe there are anywhere from 221,000 to 442,000 people who are infected.”
Mills responds: “So it was a hoax?”
Roberts responds: “No, I don’t think it was a hoax.”
The controversy around the hot mic conversation even prompted John Roberts to later clarify his remarks.
He told the Associated Press that the exchange captured in this video showed some “sardonic gallows humor” between friends.
Roberts went on to say the conversation was a “total joke,” and that “clearly no one has been vaccinated” because no COVID-19 vaccine yet exists.
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He had earlier tweeted: “Because you asked. The USC study is real – but not yet peer-reviewed. The rest of the exchange was sardonic humor and sarcasm. There is NO vaccine. And it is NOT a hoax.”
Fact-checking website Snopes has deemed the conspiracy theories surrounding the video as “misleading”.
Snopes acknowledged the video was genuine, but questioned how both remarks – that COVID-19 is a hoax, and there is a secret vaccine – could co-exist.
They wrote: “In sum, the viral video truly shows an informal exchange between Roberts and Mills in which Mills joked that COVID-19 was a hoax. While this video was shared as if it featured a bombshell revelation, it really just showed an off-the-cuff exchange between two friends.”