Ric Grenell humiliates himself over media reporting of Donald Trump Jr.’s COVID-19 diagnosis

Richard Grenell speaks at the Republican National Convention
Richard Grenell speaks at the Republican National Convention Photo: Screenshot

Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting Director of National Intelligence under President Donald Trump, has once again shown off his lack of knowledge via social media.

When Donald Trump Jr.’s positive COVID-19 test results became known, the man who became the first out cabinet-level official rushed to claim that the media was “announcing protected health information” in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). In fact, the information reported did not do so.

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Grenell currently spends his time assisting in Trump’s attempt to invalidate ballots across key states that he’s lost, and as the Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations. When he’s not doing that, he’s regularly attacking the media on Twitter.

His latest attempt to do so backfired.

NBC News political correspondent Josh Lederman tweeted that “Don Trump Jr, the president’s son, has tested positive for COVID, @albamonica & @PeterAlexander report @NBCNews,” citing fellow NBC News political reporter Monica Alba and White House Correspondent Peter Alexander. They confirmed the news following initial reporting from Bloomberg‘s Jennifer Jacobs.

Grenell tweeted in response, “Reporters need to stop announcing protected health information. This is a violation of HIPAA rules.”

Media employees are not subject to HIPAA in their journalistic duties, however, and do not violate the rules set out by HIPAA by reporting available health information. Further, as many were quick to point out, a spokesperson for Trump Jr. had also confirmed the diagnosis.

Media reports fact-checked that HIPAA is to be followed by “covered entities,” such as health care providers, Medicaid and Medicare employees, or anyone contracted to such entities, like “medical billing companies, IT specialists, particularly those that work in healthcare, and companies that store and destroy medical records” – but that “does not include the media.”

Forbes explained that even “if medical staff disclosed health information to a reporter, and the medical staff did not have permission from the patient, the medical staff may have violated HIPAA, but the reporter has not.”

“Please learn what HIPAA is,” Media Matters editor-at-large Parker Molloy replied.

“Didn’t realize I got a free medical degree when I became a journalist,” Forbes reporter Andrew Solender quipped.

When informed of this via a landslide of tweets, however, Grenell instead blamed those in media for his false statement and once again used the opportunity to attack journalists.

When NBC News correspondent Tom Winter pointed out that the “Former acting ODNI is unaware of how domestic law works,” Grenell snapped back that “[y]our industry is hated by the public because you justify disclosing someone’s personal health data,” again ignoring that Trump Jr.’s team had already publicly confirmed the information.

Once considered “one of the top five Republican consultants in social media,” Grenell continued to double down, going further with tweet after tweet attempting to explain why he wasn’t wrong, or why he wasn’t wrong to say what he said.

“This is silly semantics…the spirit of the law is to protect people’s privacy,” he claimed. “Have some respect for privacy.”

“It is none of your business,” the former Intelligence Director tweeted further to Alexander.

He retweeted a tweet by Sen. Rand Paul’s chief strategist, Doug Stafford, admitting Grenell was wrong but he was still right, in spirit: “congrats on your ‘fact check.'” Stafford further claimed that journalists were “all gross in their glee” by “leaking” the verified information of “a private citizen.”

Grenell even went as far to say that a correction of him by Nick Mercadante – a healthcare company CEO – “sounds like a threat.”

Needless to say, the endless petty responses did not help him save much face. This is also far from his first time embarrassing himself online, or skirting reporters, or refusing to admit he had made a false claim.

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