Fact Check: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Did NOT Say "You Can't Plan For Something That Hasn't Happened Yet" Regarding Possible COVID-19 Outbreaks In Schools

Hoax Alert

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Did NOT Say "You Can't Plan For Something That Hasn't Happened Yet" Regarding Possible COVID-19 Outbreaks In Schools Mangled Quote

Did Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, say, "You can't plan for something that hasn't happened yet," when asked what will be done if there's a COVID-19 outbreak in schools? No, that's not true. Reviewing both the video of her CNN interview with anchor Dana Bash and an online transcript, it's clear she said something different.

The claim appeared in a meme (archived here) published on Facebook on July 14, 2020, that said:

WHEN ASKED YESTERDAY "WHAT WILL BE DONE IF COVID OUTBREAKS IN OUR SCHOOL?" BETSY DEVOS ANSWERED "YOU CAN'T PLAN FOR SOMETHING THAT HASN'T HAPPENED YET"

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jul 17 23:10:27 2020 UTC)

Both Dana Bash's question and DeVos' answer were mangled in the meme.

What Bash actually asked was:

What if the school district feels they can't safely go into the schools because there's a flare up in that district. Remote learning, are you okay with it in that situation?

DeVos answered:

If there is a short-term flareup for a few days, that's a different situation than planning for an entire school year in anticipation of something that hasn't happened. That's a very different thing.

Lead stories checked the CNN video of the interview, found at this link, as well as an unofficial transcript provided by Rev.com, a digital transcription service. Both show the same question and answer.

You can watch the relevant excerpt in the embedded video below. The question and answer comes at the very end of the clip.

The question came at the end of a contentious 10-minute interview in which DeVos took issue with Dana Bash's interpretation of the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for school opening. The pediatric care experts emphasized that children are best off in school if adequate safeguards are funded.

Lead Stories also debunked another false claim about what DeVos said in the same interview. Read Fact Check: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos DID Not Say 'Only' .02% Of Kids Are Likely To Die When They Go Back To School; If So, It Would NOT Add Up To 14,740 Dead Children

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Dean Miller

Lead Stories staff writer Dean Miller has edited daily and weekly newspapers, worked as a reporter for more than a decade and is co-author of two non-fiction books. After a one-year Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy for six years. As Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting, a dual licensee, he oversaw radio, TV and print journalists, and documentary producers. He moved west to teach journalism at Western Washington University, edit The Port Townsend Leader and write the twice-weekly Save The Free Press column for the Seattle Times. Miller won the 2007 national Mirror Award for news industry coverage and he led the team that won the 2005 Scripps Howard first amendment prize. 

Read more about or contact Dean Miller

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