Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe was blasted Tuesday in a Washington Post fact-check column for repeatedly citing “wildly inflated” COVID-19 infection and hospitalization data as he attacked Republican candidate Glen Youngkin.
The newspaper awarded McAuliffe “Four Pinocchios” — its worst rating — as President Biden prepared to campaign for him around 8 p.m. Tuesday as polls show a tied race. Vice President Kamala Harris will stump for McAuliffe on Friday.
McAuliffe inaccurately claimed this month that 1,142 children were in hospital ICUs in Virginia and that the state was reporting as many as 8,000 daily infections.
He made the claims as he bashed Youngkin, arguing his opposition to vaccine mandates is irresponsible given high rates of infection and hospitalization.
“Just this week, 8,000 cases on Monday in Virginia. We in Virginia today, 1,142 children are in ICU beds,” McAuliffe claimed Oct. 7.
“We just had 4,000 cases yesterday here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. … We’ve just 1,142 children in serious, in hospitals, in ICU beds,” McAuliffe said. Oct. 21.
In fact, there were 35 children in Virginia hospitals — and not necessarily in an intensive care unit— in the week ending Oct. 2, just before McAulliffe first uttered the claim, and 334 people of all ages in Virginia ICUs on Oct. 21, when he said it again.
McAulliffe made similarly off-base statistical claims on at least two other occasions.
“The pandemic will continue to be a serious policy challenge for the next Virginia governor but there’s no reason for McAuliffe to hype the numbers,” wrote Washington Post fact-checker Glen Kessler.
The Washington Post has endorsed McAuliffe, who previously was Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018.
The Virginia governor’s race and close gubernatorial contest in New Jersey are seen as a test of Democratic fortunes as Biden’s approval rating tanks. A defeat could sap momentum for Biden’s social spending and infrastructure legislation in Congress and hint at trouble for Biden’s party ahead of the 2022 midterms.