ANDERSON – On Thursday, researchers at Cornell University released a study identifying the largest driver of misinformation about the coronavirus as the president of the United States. Before the sun came up the next day, that same president had tested positive for the virus.

In the wake of the news about his diagnosis, the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said his boss was experiencing mild symptoms. “The great thing about this president is not only is he staying committed to working on behalf of the America people,” Meadows said. “We have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job, and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.”

Medical experts note that the president is in a high risk group because of his age and his weight. And it’s almost anyone’s guess how the virus will progress. The president might recover quickly, the experts say, or he might develop more serious symptoms weeks down the road.

This is no laughing matter, and no one should wish the president ill. Still, you have to at least shake your head at the timing. One day, the president is called out for his lies. The next day, he tests positive for the virus he’s been lying about.

In carrying out their study, the Cornell researchers analyzed 38 million articles in English-language news outlets around the world. “The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation about COVID,” the study’s lead author, Sarah Evanega, told The New York Times. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”

The articles in the study appeared between Jan. 1 and May 26 in what the study called “traditional media” and other major news outlets. Nearly 3% of the articles examined by the researchers contained falsehoods. Some came in the context of fact checks, the researchers said, but many appeared without question or correction.

“Unwittingly or unintentionally, media do play a major role in disseminating misinformation because they amplify the voices of prominent people, even if those sources are incorrect,” Evanega told NBC News.

Evanega said she and her team of researchers tackled the study because the World Health Organization had identified the “infodemic” surrounding the coronavirus as a serious concern in fighting the pandemic. “If people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease,” she said, “they may be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the disease.”

The researchers identified 11 main topics of misinformation, including one conspiracy theory claiming the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats and another suggesting the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, had been linked to people eating bat soup.

But the researchers say the most common misinformation in news reports involved the president’s comments on miracle cures such as taking anti-malarial drugs or injecting disinfectants.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” the president said during a briefing in April. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs. It does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

Months later, the president finds himself among the more than 7 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the disease. As news broke of his diagnosis, nearly 210,000 people had died. The ironies are everywhere.

The president for weeks has been poking fun at Biden for his careful approach to the pandemic. Now the president finds himself under quarantine with a month to go in the campaign. It’s almost poetic. 

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at kelly.hawes@indianamediagroup.com. Find him on Twitter @Kelly_Hawes.