Fox News is downplaying the risk of coronavirus. That could get people killed.

As coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, with over 113,000 cases worldwide and a global death count of over 4,000, Fox News is continuing to downplay the severity, accusing Democrats and the media of purposefully fearmongering in order to hurt President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. 

From the moment coronavirus became the dominant news story, right-wing conspiracy theories and narratives began to come out about the origins of the virus and other aspects of its spread. Fox News in particular has tried to minimize the risk posed by coronavirus, in an effort to shield Trump from any political backlash. 

Given Trump’s tendency to make decisions based on what he sees on Fox, and Fox’s older viewer base -- a population most at risk of adverse reactions to the virus -- the network’s efforts to downplay the risk of coronavirus are dangerous.  

And it’s possible that the impact of Fox’s coverage is already being felt. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Americans are divided on party lines over the risk from coronavirus -- Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say that the virus poses an imminent threat to the United States. Here are some of the ways Fox has downplayed the coronavirus or misrepresented responses to the outbreak:

  • Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity claimed people are faking concern about coronavirus just to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.”

  • On her Saturday night show, Fox host Jeanine Pirro downplayed the possibility that  the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu, arguing that “that’s only because there’s a flu vaccine” and if not for the vaccine, “the flu would be a pandemic.” Pirro somehow drew the conclusion that this means that “the talk about coronavirus being so much more deadly [than the flu] doesn’t reflect reality.”  

  • Fox host Pete Hegseth downplayed the impact of coronavirus: “I feel like the more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.”

  • On Hannity, Fox News medical correspondent Marc Siegel said that the “worst case scenario” with coronavirus is that “it could be the flu.” 

  • In a fearmongering, over-the-top opening monologue, Fox Business host Trish Regan claimed coronavirus is “yet another attempt to impeach the president” as “the chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo.” 

  • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs reported that coronavirus “has now infected 113,000 people … in 111 countries and territories around the world” and, in nearly the same breath, claimed that “the national left-wing media [are] playing up fears of the coronavirus.”

  • On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Siegel dismissed the World Health Organization as “overly political” and “incompetent,” arguing that coronavirus is being politicized to attack Trump. 

  • Fox host Jesse Watters argued that “the power of positive thinking” can beat coronavirus. Watters then patted himself on the back for sitting next to an Asian man on the subway without harassing him before going home and eating Chinese food.  

  • Hannity tried to deflect from coronavirus by lying about former President Barack Obama’s response to H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, in 2009.

  • Fox host Neil Cavuto hosted a passenger who was on  a cruise ship that saw multiple people died from coronavirus, who told Cavuto that the disease is overhyped because he and his wife were not symptomatic. 

  • Fox & Friends Weekend gave credence to Trump’s suggestion that the reaction to coronavirus is part of a broader hoax. On the show, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said that the response had been “one thing after another to denigrate and slime our president.” 

  • On Fox & Friends, Varney claimed that diverting money away from Trump’s border wall to combat coronavirus will only “[drum] up some panic.” 

  • Fox News personalities have relentlessly tried to pivot the conversation away from the potential dangers of coronavirus and the Trump administration’s mishandling of the virus by attacking Democrats and the media. 

  • Fox anchor Harris Faulkner suggested that criticizing the administration’s response is “feeding hysteria.” 

  • America’s Newsroom co-anchor Sandra Smith said that there’s “speculation [coronavirus] could get worse,” but she added that “some say, like the president, it could miraculously disappear.” (The CDC has appeared to contradict this claim, and there’s no concrete evidence to support Trump’s idea that the virus will “miraculously” disappear.)  

  • Speaking to Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), America’s Newsroom co-anchor Ed Henry noted that two people have died in Florida so far, but he added that “both of those residents were elderly and had traveled internationally. So when you hear the context, it is not quite as scary.” 

  • Fox Business host Charles Payne dismissed coronavirus’s impact because “last week Broadway attendance went up” and “movie receipts were normal.” Payne warned that “we don’t need to talk ourselves into a recession or let anyone else with ulterior motives talk us into a recession.” 

  • On America’s Newsroom, Payne suggested that people “take advantage” of plunging gas prices and “go somewhere.” 

  • Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham commented that the “panic pushers” in the media “went into overdrive” before berating members of the media for expressing concern. 

  • In another edition of her show, Ingraham argued that China is using coronavirus to “hurt Trump in his reelection.” 

  • In February, Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson blamed “diversity” and “wokeness” for the spread of coronavirus, declaring that “identity politics trumped public health” and “they would let you die before they admitted that diversity is not our strength.” Later, Carlson chastised members of the media who he said “have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem.” 

  • On The Ingraham Angle, Fox guest Dr. Ramin Oskoui dismissed the Centers for Disease Control as “highly politicized” because of “how they’ve acted on gun control.”