May 18, 2020 Media

Former Trump Advisor Steve Bannon to Jason Lewis: Stop Pushing COVID-19 Death Toll Conspiracy Theory

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, who has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus death toll is being artificially inflated, was publicly scolded by former Trump campaign manager and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for pushing false information. 

On Friday, Lewis took to the podcast “War Room 2020,” co-hosted by Bannon and former Trump communications advisor Jason Miller, to falsely claim that hospitals were classifying non-COVID-19 deaths as such, and thus over counting the total number of coronavirus deaths. Bannon scolded Lewis for pushing the conspiracy theory, asking, “Are you gonna be one of these guys that argues the death count? Yes or No?” After a tense back and forth, Bannon bluntly told Lewis, “I guarantee the way you’re gonna lose in Minnesota in the fall is argue the death count. Just a word to the wise.”

Watch Steve Bannon chide Jason Lewis for yourself (transcript below):

LEWIS: [O]ne other thing I’ll add — and when this last chapter is written when it comes to these fatality — this presumptive positive thing — and I’m not certain how they did death certificates during these horrible seasonal flus that came before us, but if somebody goes in and has a cardiac arrest and they happen to have symptoms of COVID, in some states, they’re simply saying it’s a COVID death. That — if you did that for the seasonal flu, you’d have a crisis every season.

BANNON: You’re not arguing — you’re not taking the tack that you’re gonna argue the death count, are you?

LEWIS: No, I’m taking the tack that if we’re —

BANNON: I’ll tell ya — sure you are. Are you gonna be one of these guys that argues the death count? Yes or no?

LEWIS: No. I’m arguing — I’m — no, I’m arguing —

BANNON: Then why’d you bring — then why — then why — then why do you bring it up?

LEWIS: Because we don’t know how they’re counting. That’s all. The death count is very serious.

BANNON: But then you’re arguing the death — then you are arguing the death count.

LEWIS: No, they may very well be right. All we want is transparency, which I don’t think is a very — look —

BANNON: I guarantee — I guarantee the way you’re gonna lose in Minnesota in the fall is argue the death count. 

LEWIS: No, what I’m saying is — 

BANNON: Just a word to the wise.

This isn’t the first time Lewis has publicly made this false claim (which Dr. Anthony Fauci called a conspiracy theory). On April 27, Lewis pushed the same conspiracy theory on the conservative radio show Justice & Drew. 

For months, Lewis has been downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19 and comparing it to the flu, denigrating public health experts, and spreading misinformation and other conspiracy theories about the coronavirus.