Asked to correct misinformation about the coronavirus, a Fox News medical contributor correctly pointed out that COVID-19 is “worse than the flu.” Though Dr. Nicole Saphier was correct, her statement is a stark contrast from past commentary from her Fox News colleagues.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Saphier on March 18 what is “the one bit of information” spreading about the coronavirus that she could say “absolutely is not right,” and Saphier responded that people such as “these millennials and these younger generations” seem to believe COVID-19 is “no worse than the flu.” Saphier said we won’t be able to accurately make those comparisons either way for another year, but “right now, this is more severe than the flu.”
While there are assuredly some millennials and younger Americans who wrongly believe that COVID-19 is akin to the flu, the comparison has been particularly prominent on Fox News and in other right-wing media.
On March 6, Fox News chief medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel, a prominent part of the network’s coronavirus coverage, told Sean Hannity that “this virus should be compared to the flu. Because at worst, at worst, worst case scenario it could be the flu.”
On March 8, Siegel also agreed with Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth that “the more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.” Siegel’s coronavirus commentary has since changed -- though he hasn't acknowledged how wrong he was.
Siegel was not the only Fox News medical contributor to indulge in coronavirus-influenza comparisons: On February 28, Saphier disputed and downplayed the reported death rate for COVID-19, claiming that “when it comes to coronavirus vs. the flu, death rates are going to be similar.” Jeanine Pirro later made a similar claim on March 8.