In Pursuit of Chinese Scapegoats, Media Reject Life-Saving Lessons | FAIR
We are barely a few months into the year, but it is already clear that the coronavirus will be 2020’s defining event in media and politics. For weeks, conservative media echoed the explicit Trump line that the reaction to COVID-19 was a liberal “hoax” weaponized against the White House. Recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh has been pouring scorn on the media “hysteria”: Extolling how the market was “roaring” (Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/2/20), he claimed it was nothing to worry about. “This virus is the common cold,” he confidently predicted (3/11/20).
Fox News was similar; host Jeanine Pirro (3/7/20) pronouncing that “all the talk about the coronavirus being so much more deadly doesn’t reflect reality. Without a vaccine, the flu would be more deadly.” (The flu kills between 0.1%–0.2% of people catch it, according to the CDC; so far in Italy, 9% of recorded cases have been fatal.)
While posing beside a “Coronavirus Hysteria” graphic, Fox’s Sean Hannity (3/9/20) told viewers, “This scaring the living hell out of people—I see it, again, as, like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” Fox’s medical contributor told Hannity (3/6/20) that, “at worst, worst case scenario it could be the flu.” Host Pete Hegseth (Fox and Friends, 3/8/20) summed up the network’s message: “The more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.”
Yet, as the bodies piling up across the country became impossible to ignore, the White House—and therefore conservative media—suddenly changed their tone, Pirro (3/22/20) now telling viewers, “We are facing a seemingly incomparable enemy virus inflicting sickness and, in some cases, death as it washes across the world,” and Hannity (3/18/20) outright lying: “This program has always taken the coronavirus seriously. We’ve never called the virus a hoax.” This, while he also complained (3/17/20) about “fake news” and “irresponsible” media spreading disinformation.