The claim: Trump blamed the vice president of Navajo Nation for getting coronavirus

Following news that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19, misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s positive test result have surfaced across social media platforms. 

While questions remain on how the president contracted the coronavirus, a viral Oct. 2 blog post claims that Trump was “recorded on tape” blaming Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer for his positive test result.

“Lizer was in Washington, D.C. over the weekend seen mingling with Republican strategists while not wearing a mask,” reads a screenshot of an article posted to Facebook. “Trump fears that the Navajo Nation, with its high infection rate, put him at risk.”

Another used shared the same screenshot with the caption, “Now u really made the news for not following instructions of wearing a mask.”

USA TODAY reached out to the users behind the posts for comment.

The article appears to originate from Tlo’chi’iin News, where it was posted on the website’s Facebook page with the caption,  “So sad, so true. Most saddest story ever.”  The post has over 400 shares.

Users in the comments were quick to point out that the article was fake, writing, “i hope ya wonder how fake news gets started” and “for a hot second I couldn’t tell if this was real or not and that’s what terrifies me the most.” 

In a Facebook message to USA TODAY, Tlo’chi’iin News said the post is satirical and meant to “demonstrate the federal government’s relations with Indigenous peoples.”

Fact check: Trump could have been exposed to COVID-19 before Sept. 29 presidential debate

Claim originates from satirical site

Tlo’chi’iin News is a satirical web publication that attempts to “address political and cultural issues (and grievances) in the Navajo Nation that is more accessible and provocative than traditional news formats,” according to a disclaimer on the site

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The disclaimer goes on to state that because Navajo politics are “rampant with negativity” the web publication is meant to “balance the tone of political conversation with jokes and humor,” adding that its content is “inaccurate and false.” 

The site’s disclaimer also noted that the names of the reporters are fictitious or historical or cultural references and that any resemblance to real people is “only coincidental.” 

The Tlo’chi’iin News has previously written other satirical content such as Trump labeling COVID-19 as “ANTIFA” after contracting it, singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey visiting the Navajo Nation and Lizer wearing a mask as a “precaution for the contagious racism at Trump rally,” among others. 

Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.

Andrew Curley, an Arizona blogger who maintains the site, told the Associated Press in 2013 that his goal of launching the satirical publication was to get people to think critically about the news and question people in power. 

“It’s just kind of a way to comment on sometimes what I find are absurd posturing from elected officials or government representatives on the Navajo Nation and on the national stage,” he said. 

The image of Lizer and Trump featured in the satirical article is from November 2019 and has been credited to White House photographer Joyce N. Boghosian.

According to a press release from the Navajo Nation posted to Indian Country Today along with two photos taken with Trump at the White House, Lizer and Navajo Nation second lady Dottie Lizer visited Trump in the Oval Office for the signing of an executive order to establish a task force to address missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Persons. Trump’s attorney general, secretary of the Interior and other tribal leaders were also present for the signing ceremony, the press release said.

Fact check: Claim that Trump’s positive COVID-19 test result is a ‘con’ has no basis in fact

Unclear how Trump contracted COVID-19

It’s unclear how the president became infected with the coronavirus.

The first hint of an apparent outbreak involving the president, first lady and those in Trump’s orbit was the diagnosis of his aide, Hope Hicks. 

Hicks, who is frequently in contact with the president, tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing symptoms on Thursday, Bloomberg first reported. 

Hicks traveled with Trump to Minnesota for a campaign event on Wednesday because she had tested negative for the coronavirus that morning, but later showed symptoms on the return flight, USA TODAY reported.

Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday that he and the first lady “spend a lot of time with Hope.” Hicks traveled extensively with Trump over the last week, including to the first 2020 presidential debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29. 

A number of people in Trump’s inner circle have also recently tested positive: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel; Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien; former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway; Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah; Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; three White House reporters and one staffer; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and The Rev. John Jenkins, president of the Notre Dame University who was at the White House Sept. 26. 

Many of those who have tested positive attended a White House event on Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Rose Garden — where masks were not required —  at which Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee.

In addition, Trump and his entourage attended a debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29 and the president has held rallies both indoors and outdoors in recent weeks where not all attendees were wearing masks.  

Susie Welty, a contact tracing expert and technical director of surveillance at the University of California, San Francisco told USA TODAY that “there’s probably several super spreader events mixed up in this one scenario.” 

More: Trump’s COVID diagnosis followed waning precautions at the White House

Our rating: False

We rate this claim as FALSE, based on our research. The claim originates from a satirical website and Tlo’chi’iin News confirmed to USA TODAY that the post attempted to use satire to demonstrate the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous people. It is unclear when or where Trump contracted COVID-19. 

Our fact-check sources: 

Tlo’chi’iin News, Facebook message to USA TODAY

Tlo’chi’iin News, Tlo’chi’iin News is fake and satirical

Associated Press, Dec. 30, 2013, Navajo blogger pairs humor, politics in articles

USA TODAY, Oct. 2, Your questions about Trump and COVID-19, answered: Who gave Trump coronavirus? What is the Regeneron antibody ‘cocktail’?

Bloomberg, Oct. 1, Trump Says He Will Quarantine After Aide Falls Ill With Virus

USA TODAY, Oct. 2, Trump went ahead with campaign events in New Jersey after Hope Hicks tested positive for COVID

USA TODAY, Oct. 2, Trump, other insiders test positive for COVID: A running list of those close to the White House being tested and their results

USA TODAY, Oct. 2, Rose Garden announcement of Supreme Court nominee potential ‘super spreader’ event, with Trump plus seven others getting COVID

USA TODAY Network, Oct. 3, Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie checks into hospital after testing positive for COVID-19

USA TODAY, Oct. 3, President Trump has COVID-19: A timeline of his travels leading up to a positive coronavirus test

Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President on Indian Country Today, Nov. 26, 2019, Navajo Nation Vice President Lizer joins President Trump for signing of missing and murdered Indigenous persons executive order

USA TODAY, Oct. 4, Fact check: Trump could have been exposed to COVID-19 before Sept. 29 presidential debate

USA TODAY, Oct. 3, Fact check: Claim that Trump’s positive COVID-19 test result is a ‘con’ has no basis in fact

Fox News, Oct. 2, Trump, first lady begin the ‘quarantine process’ after Hope Hicks tests positive for coronavirus

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim about Trump, Navajo Nation began as satire



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