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Fact Checking Claims on Vaccines, Election 2020, and January 6 From CPAC
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Fact Checking Claims on Vaccines, Election 2020, and January 6 From CPAC

Friday’s speakers made statements that have been repeatedly debunked.

The agenda for the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference was diverse, with events like “Breaking China’s Power: No more ‘10% for the Big Guy’” to “Silly Doctor! Sex Changes Aren’t for Kids.” It was also full of misinformation. 

Some was subtle and amorphous, and some was blatant and specific, but the most noteworthy examples touched on three categories that The Dispatch Fact Check has been tracking for some time: vaccine misinformation, election misinformation, and the events of January 6. Here’s a roundup of some of the most significant claims that came out of the second day of the four-day event. 

In a panel titled “Fighters on the Front Line,” Leila Centner, chief executive officer and co-Founder of the Miami-based private school Centner Academy, spoke about her “common sense approach” to the pandemic. Centner made news last year for her controversial policy banning vaccinated teachers from coming into contact with students over concerns about viral shedding. On stage Friday, she spoke about the moment her teachers began getting the COVID vaccine. It was then, she said, that she took a stand. “I really don’t want teachers to get shot,” she said “because we don’t know of the possibility of the vaccinated impacting young unvaccinated kids.” Claims that the COVID-19 vaccines cause viral shedding are false. Shedding can occur only in vaccines that contain weakened versions of the targeted virus. The CDC includes this claim on its list of COVID vaccine myths and  The Dispatch Fact Check debunked these claims months ago.

Vincent Racaniello, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University explained to The Dispatch Fact Check that “With the mRNA vaccines there is no virus in the vaccine and therefore no shedding of virus from any site.” A spokesperson from the CDC also said: “There is no way for a COVID-19 vaccinated person to ‘shed vaccine.’ COVID-19 vaccines give instructions to teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. The immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. COVID-19 vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and cannot cause COVID-19.”

Centner wasn’t the only one spreading vaccine misinformation, though. 

Later in the day, during a conversation with talk show host Ben Ferguson, Ben Carson repeated an unproven and baseless claim that ivermectin is responsible for low COVID rates in certain parts of India. For context, as we have explained in an earlier fact check, ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medication that some are using to treat COVID-19 despite little evidence of efficacy. USA Today fact checked the false claim about ivermectin’s success in India, calling the claim false. As USA Today reported: “‘Ivermectin is unproven and its indication is for treatment, not for prevention, of disease,’” Dr. Amita Gupta, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education, said in an email. ‘So there is no basis for this being the reason for the decrease in cases.’” They further reported that “Ivermectin is also not a proven COVID-19 treatment.”

There was also no shortage of election misinformation, though what we’ve seen so far hasn’t been specific. Instead of allegations involving a set number of ballots and a “ballot dump,” these claims, for the most part, have been broad.

Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana spoke early in the day on a panel titled “Fighters on the Front Line,” in which he declared that he would “never, ever apologize for objecting to an unconstitutional election.” He provided no evidence that the election was “unconstitutional,” but the audience cheered in response. 

Later in the afternoon, Josh Mandel, Ohio Republican Senate candidate, similarly said: “I want to say this very clearly and very directly, I believe this election was stolen from Donald J. Trump.” He was also cheered on by an audience. In that same speech, he called Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger “traitors,” and said that “we should abolish the January 6 commission and replace it with a November 3 commission.” Mandel also claimed that he was certain Trump won Ohio by an “even higher margin” than he did. 

Lastly, Julie Kelly, author of January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right claimed that the Justic Department has “abused their power to punish Trump supporters” and to “criminalize political dissent,”—a tremendous mischaracterization of the events of January 6. 

According to the Department of Justice: “More than 725 defendants have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia. (This includes those charged in both District and Superior Court).” Additionally, the DOJ notes that more than “225 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, including over 75 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.” Additionally, “640 defendants have been charged with entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds,” and “over 75 defendants have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon.”

If you have a claim you would like to see us fact check, please send us an email at factcheck@thedispatch.com. If you would like to suggest a correction to this piece or any other Dispatch article, please email corrections@thedispatch.com.

Khaya Himmelman is a fact checker for The Dispatch. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Barnard College.