Conservative media are goading Trump into prioritizing the economy over saving lives from coronavirus

 As the coronavirus continues its tear around the globe, with some U.S. states issuing “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders, some in conservative media are arguing that preserving the economy is a top priority -- even if it means risking the spread of the virus. Recent comments made by President Donald Trump suggest he may be responding to these cues, as his administration reportedly prepares to prioritize the economy over stopping the virus. 

Public health experts continue to argue that, if anything, the U.S. isn’t doing enough to contain the spread of coronavirus. Experts are worried that the trajectory of the fast-spreading virus could lead to a much more dire economic situation -- and thousands of deaths -- if it is not contained. 

Still, some in conservative media are beginning to panic about the state of the economy -- the bedrock of Trump’s reelection strategy. Some have started arguing that the risks of hurting the economy outweigh any risk related to coronavirus, even if it means people will die. Others have complained that public health experts are writing economic policy by supporting efforts to curb the spread of the virus. 

These arguments come after weeks of Fox News and right-wing media irresponsibly downplaying the threat of coronavirus, likely leading to Trump failing to take the virus seriously during initial weeks that were vital to curbing the spread. Now, conservative media again appear to be influencing Trump, as he and his administration have reportedly signaled that they plan to prioritize saving the economy over potentially saving lives. Trump tweeted that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself” and appeared to suggest, through a series of retweets of random Twitter users, that he wants to  “isolate the high-risk groups” after 15 days and allow everyone else to begin working normally, violating the recommendation of public health experts.

Of course there are valid concerns about slowing down the economy, particularly in terms of the impact on workers, and these can be partially alleviated through competent fiscal policy solutions that don’t endanger civilians, such as providing paid sick leave and small business loans. And the economy will not function seamlessly if coronavirus continues to spread uncontrolled, regardless of when isolation measures are lifted. But reasonable protections are not the focus in pro-Trump media -- instead they're dangerously suggesting that we ignore the advice of public health experts to prioritize the economy, and some have a direct line right to the president.

Here are just some of the most notable examples of conservative media pushing this negligent narrative:

  • America’s Newsroom co-anchor Ed Henry said that “you don’t want to minimize any lives,” but then noted a “best estimate” of the mortality rate is less than 1%, and asked “what is the balance?”
  • Fox primetime host Tucker Carlson argued that “you can't just let epidemiologists run a country.”  

  • Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appeared on Carlson’s show to suggest that many grandparents, like himself, would be willing to die if it meant saving the economy. 

  • Right-wing radio host Buck Sexton tweeted, then deleted, a comment saying that “America is going to have to go back to work very soon, even if that means there are more casualties from Covid-19 than would occur under this continued extreme shutdown.” Sexton added that, “it’s a hard thing to say, but it is reality and we need to accept and act on it.”

  • Fox News host Steve Hilton said: “You know that famous phrase ‘the cure is worse than the disease’? That is exactly the territory we are hurtling towards.” 

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Citation From the March 22, 2020 edition of Fox News' The Next Revolution

  • On Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Reports, Heritage Foundation fellow Stephen Moore, a former Trump adviser, said that “we have reached the point where maybe the cure is worse than the disease.”

  • A panel on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria agreed that the economic shutdown is worse then the deadly virus itself, expressing support for the U.K.’s strategy of “encouraging people to go out, pretty much expecting that everybody will get it, and that's the point.”

  • The Federalist published an article asking the “harsh” question of “whether the nation might be better off letting a few hundred thousand people die.” The article argues that social distancing policies restrict “freedom” and are giving Americans “a dress rehearsal for tyranny."

  • Another article published in The Federalist asked, “Will the costs of a Great Depression outweigh the risks of coronavirus?” 

  • The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled “Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown: No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its economic health.” 

  • Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren tweeted, “these Democratic governors and mayors are LOVING all this power. Every day they take away a little more and a little more.” In another tweet, Lahren attacked California Governor Gavin Newsom for closing hiking trails and state parks.

  • Top Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow appeared on America’s Newsroom, where he told co-anchor Ed Henry that he agrees with the president that “the cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re gonna have to make some difficult trade-offs.” 

  • The Gateway Pundit published an article cheering Trump's tweets for suggesting “the destruction of the US economy over [the] Chinese Flu is not in his plans.”

  • Right-wing commentator Bill Mitchell theorized that the virus was a bioweapon designed to hurt the economy, tweeting, “The difference between a #BioWeapon and a #BioEconomicWeapon? A #BioWeapon is designed to destroy the enemy's fighting and working age population. A #BioEconomicWeapon is designed to destroy an enemy's economy through fear. #BioEconomicWeapons require #Media allies to work.”

  • Fox News host Mark Levin said that “we cannot have medical experts and scientists making economic policy. We just can’t. So there needs to be a more sober look at this.” 

  • Right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly tweeted: “You do not destroy your economy for any reason. ... The show must go on.”

  • On The Next Revolution, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk argued that Americans are panicked about the “economic catastrophe” and therefore must go back to work, saying that “you cannot cage the American entrepreneur.”

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh published an article saying that “no government” has ever “willfully plunged itself into a depression, obliterating its own economy on purpose, in order to prevent some other potential calamity."

  • Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted that “doctors provide medical treatment and cures—they should not be the determinative voices in policy making now or at the end of 15 days."