FiveThiryEight fact-checked a post by freshman Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia on Wednesday in which she said COVID-19 posed no risk to non-obese people under the age of 65.
Greene’s post, shown below, which also erroneously linked 6,000 deaths of people who were vaccinated to the vaccines themselves, was flagged with a “misleading” label on Twitter and provoked a 12-hour suspension for the southern congresswoman.
FiveThirtyEight correctly noted that Greene’s claims of 6,000 vaccine-related deaths came from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data showing 6,207 deaths in the U.S. out of the more than 163 million vaccinated people, which offered no causal link between the vaccine and death.
The outlet also included relevant context to the congresswoman’s first claim that the virus poses no risk to young people at a healthy weight. It does, however minimally, as with any disease.
FiveThirtyEight politics reporter Kaleigh Rogers acknowledged obesity significantly raises one’s risk to COVID-19, but went on to brand such a focus on obesity as an ill-faith fixation of “right-wing communities,” without emphasizing how individuals who live a healthy lifestyle absent underlying conditions enjoy a 99 percent odds of survival.
Focusing on obesity as though it were the only risk factor for severe COVID-19 is a trend among right-wing communities that combines two parallel threads in online subcultures: the anti-vax community’s belief that a healthy lifestyle and one’s natural immune system are as effective as vaccination in preventing disease and the right-wing troll culture’s long fixation on fat shaming.
The fixation on obesity as if it were the only, or most important, risk factor for severe COVID-19 infections is just the latest in right-wing trolls’ longstanding tradition of attacking overweight people online. https://t.co/kQdivYUpb2
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) July 28, 2021
That “longstanding tradition,” described by Rogers is based on a FiveThirtyEight Reddit analysis, which found subscribers to the popular subreddit r/The_Donald were similar to r/fatpeoplehate, the latter of which was a page dedicated to fat-shaming. Both are now banned.
Obesity, however, is among the most severe comorbidities to elevate one’s risk profile to COVID-19, usually leading to another underlying conduction to multiply the danger. As Rogers herself notes, a major study published in August found obese patients stricken with COVID-19 compared to those at an otherwise healthy size were 113 percent more likely to end up in the hospital, 74 percent more likely to end up in intensive care, and 48 percent more likely to die. While Rogers points to smoking, Parkinson’s disease, and pregnancy as rival comorbidities with similar risks when a person is infected with COVID, obesity is far more prevalent than any of the above and is entirely preventable through personal agency.
According to the CDC, nearly 14 percent of U.S. adults 18 and older smoked cigarettes, a number in decline since 2005. In 2017-2018 however, the CDC reported 42 percent of Americans qualified as “obese,” a sharp rise from 31 percent in 1999-2000. More than 70 percent of adults 20-years-old and older are overweight.
I'll be the right-wing troll here. If you are at a healthy weight, you are in the minority. More than 70 percent of U.S. adults 20-years-old and older are overweight.
FORTY-TWO percent are qualified as obese. https://t.co/SRkNOKPGie
— Tristan Justice (@JusticeTristan) July 28, 2021
Like smokers, Americans at a healthy weight are in the minority. But it’s right-wing fat-shaming to single out obesity as a preventable comorbidity amid a pandemic that’s encouraged a continued binge on carbs, sugar, and Netflix?