Story at a glance

  • The town hall also includes CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Richard Besser.
  • Social media users questioned the network’s decision to have the young activist on a panel with public health experts.
  • Thunberg, who’s now 17, has garnered global attention since 2018 when she began missing school to protest against what she claimed was inaction by world leaders to take on the climate crisis.

Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg will be featured on an upcoming CNN town hall on the coronavirus pandemic alongside a panel of health experts, CNN announced Wednesday

The “Coronavirus Facts and Fears” town hall also includes CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Richard Besser. Both officials served in the Obama administration. 

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Thunberg, who’s now 17, has garnered global attention since 2018 when she began missing school to protest against what she claimed was inaction by world leaders to take on the climate crisis. Since then, she has spoken out on the world stage and encouraged students to participate in protests demanding actions on environmental issues. She was named Time magazine’s 2019 “Person of the Year,” and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the second consecutive year. 

In an Instagram post in March, the Swedish teenager said both her and her father experienced coronavirus symptoms after visiting Germany, saying it’s “extremely likely” she was infected with COVID-19. 

The announcement Thunberg would appear on the panel Thursday was met with swift criticism from social media, with users questioning why the news network would put the 17-year-old activist alongside seasoned medical experts answering questions about the pandemic. 


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Some came to Thunberg’s defense, arguing a young person’s voice may add some value to the conversation, while others noted CNN has held similar town halls that included public figures that weren’t necessarily experts. Last week, CNN welcomed filmmaker Spike Lee and former Vice President Al Gore to discuss the coronavirus outbreak.

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Thunberg responded Thursday, denying she'd be appearing as an expert. 

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"I am an activist. The only people claiming that I'm an 'expert' are those who are trying to ridicule me," Thunberg tweeted. "My message has always been to unite behind the science and listen to the experts." 

 

This article was updated 05/14/2020

Published on May 13, 2020