Fox News’ COVID Denial Hasn’t Aged Well
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Six months into the pandemic, and as U.S. deaths top 200,000, Trump’s favorite news channel continues to downplay the horrific toll of the crisis.

Ever since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Fox News has largely focused its coverage on downplaying its severity and the health risks it poses to Americans. Not unlike the mutating virus, the network’s top talent found new ways to misinform their audience about the outbreak’s dangers around each new development and every updated death toll. When reality caught up with them and coronavirus deaths began skyrocketing in late spring, they started shifting away from writing off early warnings about the pandemic as an attempt to “bludgeon Trump with [a] new hoax” and “needlessly panicking folks” over an outbreak that is not “even a fraction of the magnitude of the common flu.” Instead, Fox’s hosts pivoted to prematurely spiking the football, declaring victory over the national health crisis, praising Donald Trump’s handling of it, and portraying the then tens of thousands of coronavirus deaths as an unmitigated success, since early, worst-case models warned of COVID-19 potentially killing 1 million to 2 million people in the U.S.

Less than half a year since Fox’s Mission Accomplished moment, health officials announced this week that the novel coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 Americans. And the death toll grows every day. More than 200,000 deaths represents a massive loss of life and immense suffering for the loved ones of those lost. This gruesome milestone means the U.S. has surpassed the White House’s worst-case coronavirus prediction from April—with three months still remaining in the year. 

Reaching such a consequential, sobering milestone should give everyone cause to reflect on the last world-altering six months, particularly those who trivialized and exploited this national tragedy for good Nielsen ratings and praise and free promotion from the most powerful man on earth. One of those chief offenders is Tucker Carlson, who announced coronavirus “hasn’t been the disaster that we feared” and added this “short-term crisis may have passed…it looks like it may have” back in April. A few weeks later, around the same time that so many corpses were stacking up in New York City that body bags had to be stuffed into rental trucks, the host triumphantly claimed “we’re happy to say that curve has been flattened” and that “the virus just isn’t nearly as deadly.” Carlson, by May, acknowledged that “many are still sick, some of those will die“ in a segment resurfaced by Media Matters, but he went on to assure his viewers that the “epidemic appears to be easing.” 

During a back-and-forth with Sean Hannity in early June, Carlson nodded along and agreed as his colleague mocked predictions from expert virologists and epidemiologists and the news outlets that covered their warnings. “You know what’s amazing about the corona thing? Every model, every person: wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,” said Hannity in a sanctimonious victory lap. “Everybody was wrong. Amazing.” Weeks prior, Hannity, whose coronavirus coverage has portrayed the president’s objectively disastrous handling of it as incalculably good, had declared that the “worst has been avoided.”

Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade actually made a slightly more accurate prediction, saying in April that “when someone says 200,000 people die, oops, I mean 60,000. And it’s not going to be right away, it’s going to be in August.” But he still saw the prospect of tens of thousands of dead Americans as a reason to celebrate: “That’s how good we are doing and how off the models were.”

In response to the White House’s 60,000–200,000 deaths projections, Martha MacCallum, who Fox appears to consider to be a news anchor rather than an opinion host, said in April: “You cannot help but look at the numbers that caused it and the models which were incorrect that really were one of the biggest push points to shut down the United States economy.” She then suggested to her viewers that the common flu may actually prove to be deadlier than the pandemic. “It is quite possible that you’re going to end up with numbers of fatalities in this COVID-19 tragedy of those that have been affected that will be south of the numbers in the 2018 flu season,” said MacCallum. According to CDC data, the exceptionally harsh 2017–2018 flu season accounted for 61,000 deaths, while there were 34,200 fatal cases during the relatively normal 2018–2019 flu—just slightly below the roughly 38,000 median death toll from the last nine U.S. flu seasons. Contrary to MacCallum’s sensational anti-pandemic lockdown argument, even the once-in-a-decade 2018 flu season didn’t come close to taking as many American lives as COVID-19.

Shortly before Laura Ingraham tweeted, and later deleted, that the pandemic was a “great time to fly,” she claimed in March that COVID-19’s “risk to the average person does remain quite low” and suggested weeks later that outbreak-mitigation efforts are actually more damaging to the country than the virus: “If we wait for Dr. [Anthony] Fauci’s seal of approval to reopen America, we may not have an America to reopen.” By June, Ingraham had had enough of the pandemic altogether. “The president and his campaign should simply not react to any of this alarmist COVID drivel from here on out,” she said.

Last month, Steve Hilton, a Fox weekend host, managed to perfectly showcase the down-is-up, bad-is-good alternate reality that Fox News has offered its viewers throughout the pandemic. “Right from the start, we told you the truth about this virus,” Hilton proudly blustered. “That most people have nothing to fear.”

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From: VANITYFAIR