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.
Former acting CDC director Richard Besser, former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius and activist Greta Thunberg join @AndersonCooper & @DrSanjayGupta for a live #CNNTownHall. Coronavirus - Facts and Fears, Thursday at 8 p.m. ET pic.twitter.com/I4FrXgwaL6— CNN (@CNN) May 13, 2020
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.
What place does Greta Thunberg have in this town hall? pic.twitter.com/qIKOCV8QcP— Yashar Ali (@yashar) May 13, 2020
This makes perfect sense due to her massive expertise in being righteously indignant while lecturing adults https://t.co/3MbhL3P5Nv— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 13, 2020
Greta Thunberg is appearing on a CNN Townhall on Climate Ch...— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 13, 2020
No, it’s on Coronavirus.
Okay, now I’m confused.
I remember when my thread about E. coli in Romaine lettuce went viral and trended on Twitter only to have CNN put Food Babe on the air to discuss the issue.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) May 13, 2020
So Greta Thunberg on this panel is an improvement from that at least.
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.
Greta Thunberg is the exact same age Ben was when he started writing columns about how he doesn't care about civilian casualties. https://t.co/Qzr6Ka8EtM— Cody Johnston (@drmistercody) May 13, 2020
Unqualified men appear on cable all day every day, bloviating endlessly, but Greta Thunberg is a bridge too far? Ok.— roxane gay (@rgay) May 13, 2020
She’s has extraordinary knowledge and she is the next generation that is left to clean this mess we’ve made. They wouldn’t have her there if she wasn’t a powerful voice.— Rosanna Arquette✌ (@RoArquette) May 13, 2020
Thunberg responded Thursday, denying she'd be appearing as an expert.
"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."
Tonight I'll be interviewed on CNN to talk about the new campaign supporting @UNICEF during COVID-19 and about being an activist in a world altered by the coronavirus.⁰It seems some people thought I was going to be on an expert panel, which of course has never been the case. 1/2— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) May 14, 2020
This article was updated 05/14/2020