Tucker Carlson Tonight for March 12, 2020

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News pushes racist and xenophobic language for coronavirus

Fox personalities and guests advocate “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus” despite medical experts warning against such language

  • Since health officials discovered the first U.S. case of coronavirus on January 21, Fox News personalities and their guests have used derogatory language to describe the disease 144 times, including 105 instances from Fox personalities and 39 from guests.

    Fox News hosts -- such as Tucker Carlson, who hosts the network’s weekday 8 p.m. prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight; Sean Hannity, host of the weekday 9 p.m. prime-time show Hannity; and Mark Levin, host of the weekend show Life, Liberty & Levin -- have been keen to use the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus” and their similar variations.

    The efforts to rebrand coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” were apparent on Fox & Friends on March 6, when guest host Pete Hegseth and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advocated for its use. President Donald Trump adopted and defended the derogatory labeling of the virus, even in official briefings, in mid-March. And now, G-7 foreign ministers reportedly  “haven't been able to agree on a joint statement” because Pompeo is insisting on calling it the “Wuhan virus.”  

  • Video file
  • As Media Matters previously documented, after weeks of downplaying the dangers of coronavirus, right-wing media have shifted toward anti-Asian bigotry and racist fearmongering.

    Experts including the World Health Organization have warned that such language is racist and xenophobic, and it comes at a time when fears of coronavirus are fueling physical and verbal attacks against Asian Americans. Reports of incidents around the country are growing, such as the experience of a Thai American on the Los Angeles subway who was singled out by another passenger as being “responsible for all diseases.” In another incident, a woman on the New York subway was assaulted by a man who called her a “diseased b****.” CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah described her recent experience with anti-Asian slurs directed at her:

  • Video file

    Citation From the March 20, 2020, edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper

  • Media Matters searched Fox News transcripts for combinations of “Wuhan,” “Chinese,” or “China” with “coronavirus,” “virus,” or “flu.” We also searched for the term “kung flu.” We included instances of Fox personalities and their guests saying any of the derogatory terms in their own words or saying any of the terms to advocate for their use.

    Tucker Carlson himself represented a substantially large portion of uses of the terms on Fox: 43 of the 144 instances came from the prime-time host. Carlson has taken particular interest in defending the use of such terms, stating during the March 12 edition of his program: “Just to be clear, describing a virus from Wuhan as the ‘Wuhan virus’ is not xenophobia, it’s accuracy, and anybody who says otherwise is lying and probably for a reason.”

  • Instances of Fox News personalities and their guests saying "Wuhan virus" or "Chinese virus"
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters reviewed transcripts in the iQ media and SnapStream video databases for all original programming on Fox News Channel from January 21, 2020, through March 24, 2020, for any of the terms “Wuhan coronavirus,” “Wuhan virus,” “Wuhan flu,” “Chinese coronavirus,” “Chinese virus,” “Chinese flu,” “China coronavirus,” “China virus,” “China flu,” or “kung flu.”

    We included instances of Fox personalities -- including anchors, hosts, correspondents, reporters, and any other contributors employed by the network -- or their guests in interviews or on panels saying any of the mentioned terms in their own words or saying any of the terms to advocate for their use.