Rush Limbaugh is helping to amplify a bogus meme circulating on social media that claims the coronavirus is an election-year scheme to undermine President Donald Trump.
The meme purportedly shows a whiteboard photographed at an unnamed physician's office listing some well-known diseases from the last two decades with the caption, "Every election year has a disease," apparently intended to downplay the risks from the viral pandemic, reported The Daily Beast.
“This is a viral-pneumonia being hyped as The Black Plague before an election,” the board reads, showing statistics purporting the coronavirus isn't that dangerous.
Every election year has a disease! #CoronavirusUSA https://t.co/p9WFX7eutx— Support Black_Lives_Matter Campaign (@Support Black_Lives_Matter Campaign)1583620740.0
Limbaugh has pushed the same claims to millions of listeners on his radio program, and mixed martial arts star Tito Ortiz posted the image on his popular Instagram account.
“Wake up #America!” Ortiz wrote. “Don’t believe the hype!”
PolitiFact deemed the claims as "false," at least in part because the diseases listed didn't actually become issues in any of those elections, and also because the years listed aren't accurate.
For example, SARS emerged and was contained by 2003, so it didn't play much of a role in the U.S. presidential election the following year, and the coronavirus -- designated as COVID-19 -- was actually discovered last year.
The meme appears to copy tweets from two Trump supporters with substantial Twitter following, and not a medical professional.
Conspiracy theorist @BillyBoysDaddy appears to have been the first to inaccurately link the diseases to election years, and Trump superfan Bill Mitchell promoted the Black Plague claims also seen in the meme.
The meme began circulating early this month, as questions were raised about Trump's handing of the outbreak that has since turned into a pandemic, and has repeatedly been flagged as "false information" on social media.
But it has gone, as they say, viral and crossed over to talk radio, where Limbaugh amplified the underlying claims to falsely assure his listeners -- many of whom fall into the most vulnerable populations -- that the virus isn't that dangerous.
“You know, every election year has had a disease as part of it,” Limbaugh said. “Are you aware of this? No, you’re not, because you’re living in the moment and thinking about the future, which is responsible and reasonable. That’s what everybody does. You just can’t change the past, anyway. In 2004, we were all told about SARS, in 2008, the Avian flu. Remember that? The bird flu. In 2010, it was the swine flu.”
“All of these things, now you remember them?” he added. “Every election year has one of these.”