While President Donald Trump remains isolated inside the White House after being hospitalized for three days with COVID-19, his re-election campaign is running dozens of ads on Facebook telling people that he’s “maybe immune” to coronavirus.
The campaign is running at least 90 versions of the ads, which have been running since Tuesday, targeting voters in specific states across the U.S. Some are being run nationwide.
The ads feature a video Trump posted on Twitter and Facebook on Monday night, moments after he left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and returned to the White House, where he triumphantly took off his mask and saluted Marine One.
"Don't let it dominate you, don't be afraid of it,” Trump said, before acknowledging the risks he took by being “out front” and failing to heed public health officials’ advice.
“I know there is a risk, there is a danger, but that's ok. Now I'm better and maybe I'm immune, I don't know.”
The video together with subtitles is now embedded in the ads seeking donations to Trump’s re-election campaign.
According to Facebook’s ad library, there are 90 versions of the ad currently running, with total impressions of over 1.3 million. The cost of running the ads so far is $300,000.
“Trump speculating that he may be immune in a video clip where he repeatedly tells users not to let fear of COVID-19 ‘dominate’ their lives, after months of spreading medical misinformation in order to downplay the pandemic, is extremely dangerous,” Natalie Martinez, a disinformation researcher with MoveOn, non-profit, progressive public policy advocacy group, told VICE News.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the ads violated its policies or not.
Martinez said that despite the danger of the message being shared by the Trump campaign, she worried the ads did not break Facebook’s rules about spreading coronavirus misinformation.
“If Trump had just said ‘I'm immune’ to COVID-19 a couple of days after having been diagnosed, I think it would have been a clear violation of Facebook's misinformation ad policy and would have been removed if it was debunked by Facebook's independent fact checking network,” Martinez said. “But because he added ‘maybe’ and ‘I don't know,’ his claim becomes more speculative than statement, and may not actually violate Facebook's misinformation ad policy.”
But Martinez added that “if all it takes is speculative language to bypass Facebook's misinformation policy, then it's a bad policy. By allowing Trump to run these ads, Facebook is profiting off of medical and political misinformation.”
Cover: President Donald Trump walks out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to return to the White House after receiving treatments for covid-19, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)