How to Stoke Fear With Statistics: NY Times Correspondent Spreads Virus Death Chart

FILE- This May 2, 2017, file photo, shows the corporate signage on the headquarters building of The New York Times in New York. The New York Times Co. reports earnings Thursday, May 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

We’ve found out lately that some at the New York Times have trouble with math.

Remember when a member of the New York Times editorial board, Mara Gay, thought that if Mike Bloomberg spent $300 million on his campaign, he could have given a million dollars to each American instead?

Now the New York Times appears to have an issue with statistics, too.

Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times and an MSNBC analyst. He also has married media, too — he’s the “proud husband of Susan Glasser of the New Yorker and CNN.”

But Peter apparently either didn’t study statistics or skipped out when they started talking about things like “per capita” because here was his take on a graph about Wuhan coronavirus deaths in various countries.

Of course, the point of his interpretation? That U.S. is doing badly, as “badly as Iran and much worse than Japan and South Korea.”

But it that true? Not really.

When you adjust it for population, it reveals a very different graph.

The United States has been close to South Korea, currently the gold standard for dealing with the virus, with a mortality rate compared to diagnosed cases of around 1.4 percent as of this writing, with South Korea at 1.3 percent. The rate is likely even lower and may be below 1 percent as the experts have postulated because there are likely more cases that are undiagnosed since for most people the virus is mild. Many might not even know they have it or ever get tested. The U.S. is actually ahead of South Korea when it comes to total cases per million population, with 2 deaths per million. Iran is much worse, with 295 cases per million and 23 deaths per million.

Baker claimed we were doing as “badly as Iran.” But Iran’s death rate is 7.7 percent, ours is 1.4. That’s a huge difference in our favor.

The worst death rate so far (assuming the figures are correct from places like China) is Italy with a death rate of almost 10 percent.

Baker was blasted on Twitter for tweeting out the chart and not accounting for population.

Now, I get that the idea here is always to run things down to make the Orange Man look bad. And we’ve seen manipulation in headlines from the New York Times as we reported on Sunday, whose headline evolved to be more forgiving to Democrats blocking a virus relief bill for Americans.

But when you’re supposed to be informing people, comparing countries by just looking at cumulative deaths without accounting for over-diagnosed cases and/or not adjusting for population is misleading. But then, if you did that, it wouldn’t be stoking fear as much or hyping up people to hate the Orange Man.