When discussing a now-viral exchange between Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday entirely mischaracterized criticism of the push to reopen state economies -- a push in which some states are reopening against the Trump White House’s own guidelines.
In the exchange from the Senate’s May 12 hearing about the coronavirus crisis, Paul predicted that “the history of this, when we look back, will be wrong prediction after wrong prediction after wrong prediction” and declared that Fauci is not the “end-all” of COVID-19 decisionmaking. Paul also suggested that Fauci wants to cancel school for a full year, claiming that “the Swedish model” suggests it’s safe for children to return to school. (Paul’s criticisms echoed recent pro-Trump talking points on Fox News.)
Fauci pushed back by defending his credentials as a scientist and noted that the medical community still does not know everything about the virus’s effect on children, citing studies out of New York in which children have fallen ill and in rarer cases died from an inflammatory disease linked to the virus.
After Fox anchor Dana Perino rolled the clip of Paul and Fauci, Baier insisted the disagreement was representative of the current state of American politics — and completely mischaracterized criticism of Trump’s push to reopen the economy.
In reality, pushback against Trump’s moves to reopen the U.S. economy is not a partisan position “on the left,” it is the widely accepted view of public health experts -- including in guidance from the Trump White House itself.
As The New York Times reported on May 7, “more than half of U.S. states have begun to reopen their economies or plan to do so soon,” and most states pushing forward with reopening “fail to meet criteria recommended by the Trump administration to resume business and social activities.”
The White House’s guidelines are nonbinding and ultimately leave states’ fates to governors. The criteria suggest that states should have a “downward trajectory” of either documented coronavirus cases or of the percentage of positive tests. Public health experts expressed criticism because “downward trajectory” was not defined and the metrics do not specify a threshold for case numbers or positive rates.
Still, most states that are reopening fail to adhere to even those recommendations: In more than half of states easing restrictions, case counts are trending upward, positive test results are rising, or both, raising concerns among public health experts.
Instead of taking into account the Trump White House’s own advisory, Baier proposed a simplified partisan narrative that paints states’ decisions to reopen as purely political calculations.
This segment comes just after Fauci warned during the same Senate hearing that prematurely reopening states could lead to further “suffering and death" and noted that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll is “almost certainly” higher than the more than 80,000 deaths that have already been reported.