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Ambulance workers move a man on a stretcher from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. into an ambulance, Friday, March 6, 2020. The facility is the epicenter of the outbreak of the the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ambulance workers move a man on a stretcher from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. into an ambulance, Friday, March 6, 2020. The facility is the epicenter of the outbreak of the the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Ambulance workers move a man on a stretcher from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. into an ambulance, Friday, March 6, 2020. The facility is the epicenter of the outbreak of the the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke March 11, 2020

Legislator’s “joke”: More people died from knowing Hillary Clinton than coronavirus

If Your Time is short

  • A staffer says claim that knowing Hillary Clinton causes more deaths than coronavirus was “clearly a joke.”

  • The legislator, Gae Magnafici, took office in January 2019 after a 35-year career as a nurse.

  • It’s obviously nonsense to compare Clinton in any way with a global virus outbreak that has killed thousands.

As America’s coronavirus death toll hit 19 and the number of cases topped 400 on March 7, 2020, one Wisconsin branch of Twitter wasn’t exactly taking the matter seriously.

It started innocuously enough with a tweet from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck. She shared a link to a Washington Post story that said President Donald Trump’s administration squandered time and "lost control of the coronavirus crisis."

Former Wisconsin legislator Adam Jarchow retweeted that, adding "Crisis?" It’s a question Trump has repeatedly raised as well in minimizing the impact of the virus. 

But it was a response to Jarchow that jumped off the screen.

"More people have died from knowing Hillary."

It’s not a particularly shocking digression in the scope of, well, the internet, but the source was noteworthy. The comment came from first-term state Rep. Gae Magnafici, R-Dresser, who succeeded Jarchow representing Wisconsin’s 28th District.

Which means we need to take a closer look.

Staffer says she wasn’t serious

When we contacted Magnafici’s office about the tweet, there was no mention of Benghazi, email servers or other popular Hillary Clinton conspiracy fodder.

"It’s clearly a joke," said staffer Tyler Ellisen.

Ellisen didn’t respond when asked what in the context would have signaled this was a joke, or whether Magnafici considers the coronavirus a serious matter.

The account is not Magnafici’s official legislative Twitter account, but it’s the only one she regularly uses. The personal account primarily posts political content, and her official one hasn’t been used since March 2019.

The comment is particularly interesting given the legislator’s background. Magnafici, who lives in Polk County along the Minnesota border, was elected in November 2018 after a 35-year career as a nurse, according to her campaign website.

A biography on the site casts Magnafici this way:

"As healthcare continues to be a hot topic in both national and state politics, Gae intends on using her extensive knowledge and experience to help Wisconsin continue to be a leader in healthcare innovation and cost savings."

In any case, dismissing something as a "joke" doesn’t make it immune from scrutiny — especially when it’s not presented as such.

The facts

This won’t take long.

As of March 7, 2020, the death toll for the coronavirus was already well over 3,000 people worldwide. The U.S. death toll was at 19 at the time.

Comparing that to people who died due to any connection with Clinton is, obviously, ridiculous.

Our ruling

Magnafici, a longtime nurse now serving as a state legislator, responded to a coronavirus post on Twitter by saying "more people have died from knowing Hillary."

A staffer later said she was "clearly" joking.

But the claim, aside from making no logical sense, came in response to a serious post and had no accompanying context indicating it was meant as some kind of satire.

We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

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More by Eric Litke

Legislator’s “joke”: More people died from knowing Hillary Clinton than coronavirus

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