If CNN is going to host right-wing figures like Jerry Falwell Jr. during a pandemic, it needs to do better when interviewing them

CNN fails to challenge Jerry Falwell Jr. on suggestion that coronavirus could be a North Korean/Chinese bioweapon; he also spread false comparisons between COVID-19 and H1N1

On March 25, CNN’s New Day hosted Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to respond to criticism that his university is allowing students to return to campus despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While co-anchor Alisyn Camerota did question him about the university’s decision and Falwell’s prior calls for people to go to church, she didn’t bring up his bizarre speculation on Fox that North Korea “got together with China” to create coronavirus. 

Falwell also became the latest right-wing media figure to spread false claims about the Obama administration’s H1N1 response in clear attempts to make Trump’s coronavirus response look better, a strategy that the president has adopted

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Citation From the March 25, 2020, edition of CNN's New Day

JERRY FALWELL JR (LIBERTY UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT): The H1N1 virus back in 2009 had 300,000 Americans in the hospital, 60 million had contracted the virus; 17,000 died. But we didn't see the response back then that we've seen from President Trump and from the media. And so I think we're taking this one a lot more seriously, and I'm glad we are.

ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-ANCHOR): You're glad we're taking this one seriously. You don't think we're taking it too seriously?

FALWELL: I'm glad we're taking it a lot more seriously than we did H1N1, because that one was arguably in the same ballpark as far as how severe it was. A lot more deaths, but I don't know where this one's going to end up.  

CAMEROTA: No one does. No one does. It's impossible to know where this one is going to end up. And I do remember, I mean, from my recollection, the media and the government taking H1N1 seriously, so I'm not sure of that comparison.

Falwell’s claim that the two viruses are “arguably in the same ballpark” of severity downplays the fact that, so far, COVID-19 is approximately 50 times deadlier than H1N1.

According to data compiled by the Financial Times, the United States is on track to become one of the world leaders in coronavirus deaths.

A graph showing coronavirus infection rates by country, highlighting Spain, France, the UK, Italy, China, Iran, the US, South Korea, and Japan.

Citation Financial Times, 3/25/20