Fox News handles coronavirus by pivoting to what it knows: Attacking Democrats and the media

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, President Donald Trump’s administration and its allies have struggled to manage the messaging on the virus. Trump’s most influential ally in the media -- Fox News -- is responding by pivoting to what it does best: railing on Democrats and the media.  

The strain of novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China. It has swiftly spread to six continents, resulting in over 3,000 deaths globally so far, over 82,000 total cases, and a stock market plunge.  

The threat of coronavirus has been compounded by mixed messaging from the White House, including  baseless assertions from President Donald Trump that the virus soon may simply disappear. The fact that Trump has been pathologically lying his way through the presidency doesn’t help.  

In addition to occasionally dabbling in unfounded conspiracy theories, Fox News is responding to the crisis by attacking Democrats and the media for criticizing or questioning Trump’s response and competency. 

Fox News figures are arguing that Democrats and the media are:

  • overhyping and politicizing coronavirus just to take down Trump; 

  • complaining that no one ever gives Trump credit for successes; and

  • claiming that Democrats spent too much time on impeachment while Trump was trying to prepare for the impact of coronavirus. 

Claim: Democrats and the media are overhyping and politicizing coronavirus to hurt Trump

  • Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham said it  “seemed like some of the Trump haters” in media “were actually relishing in this moment,” claiming they view coronavirus as “a new pathway for hitting President Trump.”

  • Fox host Pete Hegseth said that Democrats and the media are “rooting for coronavirus to spread” and “cheering for a virus because they hate Donald Trump so much.”

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Citation From the February 28, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

  • Fox Business host Stuart Varney said that Democrats are “going after the president” for an “electoral advantage,” adding, “I think that is absolutely reprehensible.” 

  • Fox anchor Dana Perino hosted Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh, who claimed that “what we see from the other side is … fearmongering from Democrats who are trying to scare people and, I think, trying to hope that the coronavirus situation inflicts damage onto President Trump in a way that their bogus impeachment never could.” Perino responded, “We’re going to see some politics, that’s for sure.” 

  • In an opening rant smearing Democrats over COVID-19, Ingraham said that “Democrats and their media cronies have decided to weaponize fear and also weaponize suffering to improve their chances against Trump in November.” She concluded that “many of them are frankly so sick with their anti-Trump fever that they actually considered this virus a political godsend.” 

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Citation From the February 26, 2020, edition of Fox News The Ingraham Angle

  • On his radio show, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity said Democrats and the media are “desperate,” claiming that they are “fearmongering” and “if they really cared about our health and our well-being, they would work together with the president.” 
  • On The Ingraham Angle, Fox contributor Victor Davis Hanson said, “This is a political weaponization of an issue in the way that the Mueller [report] and impeachment failed to achieve results.” 

Claim: Democrats never give Trump credit for the good things 

  • On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox News medical contributor Marc Siegel said that Trump has put together “an incredibly competent task force” to handle coronavirus and “is getting no credit for” it. 

  • On his radio show, Hannity said Democrats have “never talked about one thing Trump has done that they liked,” comparing the reaction to coronavirus to their reaction to Trump’s possibly illegal order to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January.

The Sean Hannity Show 2/28

Hannity radio on coronavirus
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Citation From the February 28, 2020, edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show

  • When Outnumbered guest Jon Summers criticized Trump’s coronavirus response, co-host Harris Faulkner asked when Trump will “get credit for the things he does, though, just with regard to coronavirus.

Claim: Democrats spent too much time focusing on impeachment instead of working to prevent the spread of coronavirus

  • On Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt applauded Trump’s travel ban, noting,  “That was a few weeks ago when the Democrats were screaming impeachment and he implemented that travel ban, thank goodness.”

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Citation From the March 2, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

  • On his radio show, Hannity said that Trump was closing borders to handle coronavirus while Democrats were “fixated with impeachment, as they’ve been fixated on hating Trump for the last however long.”
  • On Hannity, Fox host Mark Levin attacked the Democrats, saying that “from January 16 to February 5, the United States Senate was paralyzed by … this outrageous impeachment trial.” Levin argued that the impeachment hearing meant that senators “couldn’t conduct any business,” “couldn’t pass a bill to increase funding,” and “couldn’t hold hearings on the coronavirus” because Democrats “shut down the United States Congress.”
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Citation From the February 27, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said that “this pandemic was growing in the middle of all the impeachment” and berated Democrats for criticizing Trump over his coronavirus response when they were impeaching him.