Fox News is now hyping what appears to be a coordinated effort by pro-Trump groups and the Trump campaign to put forward a separate narrative from another group of doctors who are speaking out against official guidance from experts about safety measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic and instead urging the quick reopening of businesses and the end of shelter-in-place orders.
On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported on a May 11 conference call “with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign,” which was organized by an affiliate of the right-wing Council for National Policy.
During the call, Republican activist Nancy Schulze “said she had given the campaign a list of 27 doctors prepared to defend Trump’s reopening push.” According to Schulze, “There is a coalition of doctors who are extremely pro-Trump that have been preparing and coming together for the war ahead in the campaign on health care.” She further added: “And we have doctors that are … in the trenches, that are saying ‘It’s time to reopen.’”
Another participant on the call was Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union, the organization that hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Schlapp is also a frequent guest on Fox News and appeared on the network in early March to downplay the danger of the virus while he was isolating at home, after having potentially been exposed to someone during the recent CPAC event who later tested positive for COVID-19.
“The president’s going to get tagged by the fake news media as being irresponsible and not listening to doctors,” Schlapp said on the reported conference call. “And so we have to gird his loins with a lot of other people. So I think what Nancy’s talking about … this is the critical juncture that we highlight them.”
And today, Fox News ran an article featuring a public letter from a new group called “A Doctor a Day,” formed to oppose the lockdown efforts. Currently at over 600 signatures, the letter calls the economic shutdown a “mass casualty incident” resulting in people missing medical appointments for other conditions and experiencing the potentially devastating health effects of financial uncertainty.
As the AP noted, the lead signatory of the letter is Dr. Simone Gold, an emergency medicine specialist. Gold is also a member of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative groups pushing to reopen businesses. The Council for National Policy, the group that organized the May 11 call, is also a member of that coalition. Gold denied to the AP that she was coordinating her efforts with the Trump campaign: “But put this in there: I’m honored to be considered.”
Gold also told Fox News that her push to quickly reopen the economy is “causing a big misunderstanding about what I'm doing so I actually think I'm just going to take my name off [from the Save Our Country Coalition] because it's not really supposed to be political.”
The letter received a glowing mention in the opening block of Thursday’s edition of Fox & Friends.
At about the same time, the letter was being covered as a seemingly straightforward news headline on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo.
The coverage continued on Fox’s purported “news”-side program, with America’s Newsroom co-anchor Ed Henry interviewing Gold after announcing that “doctors across America” are “now voicing concerns about extended lockdowns.” During the interview, Henry voiced concerns about people suffering from ailments other than COVID-19:
Given the remarks Henry made about “people around the country who have non-COVID related problems that they're not getting taken care of,” it might also be worth examining the actual text of the letter and what the signatories explained they meant when they described the shutdown as a “mass casualty incident.”
During a mass casualty incident, victims are immediately triaged to black, red, yellow, or green. The first group, triage level black, includes those who require too many resources to save during a mass crisis. The red group has severe injuries that are survivable with treatment, the yellow group has serious injuries that are not immediately life threatening, and the green group has minor injuries.
The red group receives highest priority. The next priority is to ensure that the other two groups do not deteriorate a level. Decades of research have shown that by strictly following this algorithm, we save the maximum number of lives.
Millions of Americans are already at triage level red. These include 150,000 Americans per month who would have had a new cancer detected through routine screening that hasn’t happened, millions who have missed routine dental care to fix problems strongly linked to heart disease/death, and preventable cases of stroke, heart attack, and child abuse. Suicide hotline phone calls have increased 600%.
Tens of millions are at triage level yellow. Liquor sales have increased 300-600%, cigarettes sales have increased, rent has gone unpaid, family relationships have become frayed, and millions of well-child check-ups have been missed.
Hundreds of millions are at triage level green. These are people who currently are solvent, but at risk should economic conditions worsen. Poverty and financial uncertainty is closely linked to poor health.
In this analogy of the shutdown as a “mass casualty incident,” no explanation is given for who the “triage level black” group — those people who “require too many resources to save during a mass crisis” and thus must be abandoned in order to save the rest — might actually represent.
But given the active push by Fox News hosts for the mass reopening of businesses, even if the vulnerable suffer, and their willingness to accept preventable deaths of more coronavirus patients, the answer would seem pretty clear.