Fox News promotes “publicity stunt” against virtual learning in schools

Several Fox shows in both the network’s “news” and opinion divisions covered a New York high schooler’s arrest for trespassing on school grounds in a supposed protest of the district’s hybrid learning program. The school district accused the student of staging a “publicity stunt” for the media, which a Fox host agreed with and congratulated him for. This coverage continues the trend of Fox News promoting reckless behavior during the coronavirus pandemic.

The student had been suspended earlier in the week for attempting to attend in-person classes during an assigned distance-learning day. In its statement on the student’s arrest, the school district decried the “circus atmosphere” of the alleged protest and its impact on other students, writing: “We are still in the midst of a pandemic and will abide by the regulations set in place by our government and health officials designed to keep our students and staff safe.” 

Fox Business anchor and Fox News senior vice president Neil Cavuto hosted the student for an interview about his side of the story, in which the student said he is only trying to go to class in person, saying: “If they would have let me go to school, I wouldn’t have needed to call Fox.” Cavuto ended his interview by saying the student was “making history, depending on point of view that’s either good history or bad history,” because he “just wants to go to class in person.” (Cavuto also interviewed a representative of the school district to hear “the other side” of the story.)

Jesse Watters, a co-host of The Five, later called the student “a legend” and “a total pro,” congratulated him for his savviness in alerting the media and getting booked on Fox News, and predicted he could make a future Fox News host.

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Citation From the September 10, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five

In The Five’s panel discussion, co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery encouraged the school to just “let him go” to in-person classes five days a week. Fellow co-host Dana Perino said the student was “practicing peaceful protesting and civil disobedience, and he got arrested, he didn’t make a big fuss, he didn’t burn anything down, he didn’t loot any stores, didn’t cause any more problems, just exercising his way to express himself.”

The arrest got additional coverage on Fox News’ website, as well as the shows America’s Newsroom, Fox News @ Night, and Outnumbered Overtime, which also promoted Cavuto’s interview with the student.

Fox’s promotion of this student’s “publicity stunt” is the latest in the network’s trend of promoting risky behavior during the pandemic. Fox has spent months obsessing over gym reopenings, awarding a New Jersey gym with doting coverage of its “revolt” against Gov. Phil Murphy (D). In April, several Fox hosts recklessly claimed that America was already ready to reopen, and the network heavily promoted reopen protests in several states -- prompting President Donald Trump to endorse the protests. More recently, Fox hosts have pressed for schools to fully reopen despite persistent concerns and outbreaks -- and once again, Trump followed Fox’s lead.