Fox News host Steve Hilton pushed a lengthy series of falsehoods about the American response to the coronavirus pandemic as he urged President Donald Trump and other political leaders to initiate a near-total lifting of the economic lockdowns and restrictions.
Hilton has previously claimed that an increase in coronavirus cases is “actually good news,” and that reopenings should be sped up. For his opening monologue on the August 2 edition of The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton, he blamed the recent single worst quarterly report in history — the economy shrinking at an annualized rate of 32.9% in the second quarter — on “the establishment,” the media, and health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the long-serving head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Right from the start, we told you the truth about this virus — that most people have nothing to fear,” Hilton said. “That the right response is to protect the vulnerable, that the mass shutdowns were a massive mistake.”
Despite Trump’s claim that 99% of cases are “totally harmless,” the CDC reported that up to one-third of patients who have not been hospitalized have also suffered from ongoing symptoms. This phenomenon has become known as “long COVID.”
As an example, a woman in Utah has been experiencing since March such varied problems as “shortness of breath … arthritic pain, lung clots, vascular issues, internal tremors or buzzing, electrical zaps, sleep deprivation, phantom smells, nausea, loss of appetite and body aches.”
After speaking of the economic devastation, Hilton declared: “And what did it all achieve? Practically nothing. You saw similar death rates in countries that had no shutdown and countries that had even tougher shutdowns.”
This claim is demonstrably untrue. As Media Matters has previously discussed, while conservative media lauded Sweden as a supposed example to follow as they eschewed lockdowns, the country’s death statistics on the virus have been tremendously worse off than its immediate neighbors in Denmark, Finland, and Norway.
“We said from the start, the shutdowns are pointless,” Hilton also said. “The virus will come back the minute you open up. Sure enough, around the world, cases are rising everywhere the lockdowns are being lifted.”
While it is correct that the virus cases will increase as restrictions are lifted, it’s also obviously true that getting a country down to a lower baseline is a vital step to make sure that the inevitable increase will also be as small as possible. The reality becomes evident when we compare the United States to other countries that actually achieved the low baseline. Even with their initial increases right now, in real terms they are vastly better off than the United States.
As Fauci explained in a congressional hearing Friday, before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, other countries succeeded in controlling their case numbers partly because they achieved a shutdown of 95% of their populations, while the United States only achieved a shutdown of 50% of the country.
In addition, Fauci said, “There was such a diversity of response in this country from different states that we really did not have a unified (one) bringing everything down,” such as in states that reopened earlier than the recommendations of federal guidelines.
Indeed, compared to those other countries, the United States has become an exceptional case in the developed world. The Washington Post reported two weeks ago: “Six months after the coronavirus appeared in America, the nation has failed spectacularly to contain it. The country’s ineffective response has shocked observers around the planet.”