Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight for December 17, 2020: Inflated coronavirus death counts

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On a day when Fox disputed official COVID-19 death counts, the network reported on the death toll for only 3 minutes

  • Yesterday, two of Fox’s prime-time shows -- Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle -- aired segments arguing that coronavirus death counts, both at the state and national level, are being “inflated”; at the same time, the network reported on the actual national death toll or daily death rate for a measly 3 minutes all day.

    During Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson claimed in his opening monologue that Americans should not trust any official numbers coming out of the federal government about the coronavirus. Carlson ran with a story from Grand County, Colorado, where a coroner had spoken out about the state counting two deaths by suicide among its coronavirus death tally. From just two erroneously classified deaths, Carlson concluded that no coronavirus data could be trusted.

  • Video file

    Citation From the December 17, 2020, edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Laura Ingraham picked up the same story during The Ingraham Angle with her guest Max Nelsen, the labor policy director for Freedom Foundation, an anti-union think tank funded by conservative billionaires. She used the Colorado examples and three potentially misclassified deaths in Washington state highlighted by a Freedom Foundation analysis to argue the states were “drastically overcounting” the actual death counts.

  • Video file

    Citation From the December 17, 2020, edition of The Ingraham Angle

  • In recent days, the COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 300,000, and the national daily death rate due to the virus has exceeded 3,000 for three days in a row. But on December 17, Fox reported on the growing U.S. national coronavirus death toll for a paltry 3 minutes, including this segment about the Moderna vaccine on Special Report. The segment reported the death toll and total case numbers alongside criticisms of Democratic lawmakers flaunting public health guidelines, such as Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo's attendance at a “wine and paint” party.

  • Video file

    Citation From the December 17, 2020, edition of Special Report

  • This isn’t the first time Fox has downplayed the coronavirus death toll. Over a five-day period in September, the network undermined public health measures nearly five times as often as it reported on the number of deaths, a media strategy that continues even this month. Fox ignored the death toll when the daily death rate surpassed the number of victims on 9/11. As the death toll soared, Ingraham opined, “The virus is a lot less lethal than previously thought.” Based on this track record, it won’t be the last time someone on Fox tries to tell its viewers that we’ve nothing to worry about.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “coronavirus,” “COVID,” “COVID-19,” “virus,” or “pandemic” within close proximity of any of the terms “death toll,” “death,” “died,” or “killed” for December 17, 2020. We timed any discussion about or reporting on the U.S. local, state, or national death tolls or daily death rates. We also timed discussion about or reporting on cases or hospitalizations if they occurred in the same discussions or reports on the death tolls or rates.