Fact Check: Sen. Thom Tillis Contracted The Coronavirus And WAS Unmasked During Part Of The SCOTUS Rose Garden Event

Fact Check

  • by: Alan Duke

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Sen. Thom Tillis Contracted The Coronavirus And WAS Unmasked During Part Of The SCOTUS Rose Garden Event Unmasked

Did Sen. Thom Tillis contract the coronavirus despite wearing a mask at the White House Rose Garden event announcing President Trump's Supreme Court nominee? No, that's not true: Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, was seen wearing a mask during part of the White House Rose Garden event to offically announce Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but he was also photographed inside the White House not wearing a mask while standing with Judge Barrett.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by Breitbart.com on October 2, 2020, under the title "Sen. Thom Tillis Contracted the Coronavirus Despite Wearing a Mask at SCOTUS Rose Garden Event." It opened:

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) contracted the Chinese coronavirus following last week's Rose Garden event -- in which President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court -- despite wearing a mask at the gathering.

"Thom Tillis wore a mask at the event in the Rose Garden- he has tested positive," journalist Heather Childers reported on Saturday. A photo also shows Tillis wearing a mask at the event. Despite that, he has since contracted the virus:

This is what social media users saw at the time of writing:

Sen. Thom Tillis contracted the Chinese coronavirus following last week's Rose Garden event despite wearing a mask at the gathering.

Posted by Breitbart on Sunday, October 4, 2020

UDPATE: Breitbart corrected its article shortly after this Lead Stories debunk was published.

Breitbart attributed its claim to this tweet by journalist Heather Childers, a former Fox News host:

Childers' tweet was technically correct in that Sen. Tillis was wearing a mask when seated in the Rose Garden:

image (66).png

But Childers and Breitbart overlooked widely-published images of Tillis at the event without a mask on his face. The New York Times, in an article titled Inside the White House Event Now Under Covid-19 Scrutiny included this photo, with each person identified. Tillis is seen on the right, nor wearing a mask, standing close to Judge Barrett, who was also not wearing a mask:

image (65).png

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes breitbart.com as:

A conservative news and commentary site that advocates for U.S. President Donald Trump's nationalist and populist policies. The site has published false and misleading claims, including about COVID-19.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.


  • 2020-10-06T11:52:49Z 2020-10-06T11:52:49Z
    Breitbart corrected its article to reflect Sen. Tillis did not wear a mask during the entire event.

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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.

This fact check is available at IFCN's 2020 US Elections #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

  Alan Duke

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

Read more about or contact Alan Duke

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