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Is the explosion of COVID-19 conspiracies changing people’s real-world behavior?


On Monday night, Breitbart News launched a video of a press conference from a group of physicians called America’s Frontline Doctors, wherein several doctors repeated inaccurate claims about COVID-19, its treatments, and effects. The video reached over 20 million viewers on Facebook alone before being taken down Tuesday. The fast spread of this video and its false claims raises a big question about how much this kind of information affects people’s decisions to stay home, wear a mask, and ultimately, to get vaccinated when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved.

In the video, a line of 10 doctors in white coats stands behind a microphone at an outdoor even hosted by the Tea Party Patriots, an organization devoted to advancing Tea Party conservative agendas and pushing America to reopen its economy and schools. They are America’s Frontline Doctors, a group that includes physicians with a history of making medically dubious claims. Among them is Texas pediatrician Dr. Stella Immanuel, a minister whose fervent anti-LGBTQIA stances and Christian ideologies often bleed into her views on medicine, according to watchdog Media Matters. It is her impassioned speech championing hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 that has drawn the most attention. Repeated research studies show hydroxychloroquine neither reduces the length of illness in COVID-19 patients nor prevents death.

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