Did Biden Say 120 Million People Had Died from COVID-19?

A gaffe took on new life in the hands of Republicans and right-wing media.

  • Published 29 June 2020

Claim

On June 25, 2020, at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden incorrectly said 120 million people had died of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.

Rating

Mostly False
Mostly False
About this rating

What's True

Biden said "Now we have over 120 million dead from COVID" at the Pennsylvania event in apparent reference to U.S. fatalities.

What's False

However, he corrected himself immediately to say the number was actually 120,000.

Origin

Former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has often put his foot in his mouth. But conservatives and others in the media exaggerated a recent slip-up to a whole new level as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continued to take its toll in the summer of 2020.

Snopes readers asked us to verify if Biden had actually said that 120 million people had died from the disease (a wildly inaccurate figure). We learned that he did, but also that he immediately corrected the error. 

The gaffe occurred on June 25, 2020, at a campaign event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His statement was picked up by conservatives like Fox News host Sean Hannity, President Donald Trump, and official Republican accounts that tweeted only the portion of his remarks where he made the gaffe. 

Hannity’s tweeted clip, for instance, conveyed a truncated version of the truth. The media pool video cut off right when Biden appeared to catch himself erroneously saying, “Now we have over 120 million dead from COVID.”

A reporter for The Daily Beast shared in a pool report that the camera was ushered out of the courtyard during that part of the conversation, and was thus unable to broadcast the remainder of his comments. However, Mediaite obtained audio of Biden’s remarks after the video was cut off:

Now we have over 120 million dead from COVID, I mean, 120,000 dead from COVID. And you have so many — now we’re past 2 million — I mean, and we’re talking about it like it’s over. I mean, it’s over. My god.

We should note that Biden did not specify if he was talking about COVID-19 deaths in the United States per se, though we assume he was, because the number “120,000” he referenced tied closely to U.S. data. On June 26, the day after Biden’s remarks, the Johns Hopkins’ tracker reported 124,424 deaths in the U.S. As of June 29, data from Hopkins showed the number of deaths rose to more than 125,000. 

In sum, because Biden did indeed mistakenly say 120 million people had died from COVID-19, but corrected the number to 120,000 right after he misspoke, we rule this claim about his gaffe is “Mostly False.”