Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic Fox has proven itself an unreliable source of public health information.
Across the network, its guests and hosts have downplayed the severity of the crisis by insinuating death and case numbers are inflated, have consistently questioned efficacy of lifesaving measures like stay-at-home orders and mask-wearing guidelines, and have even hocked dangerous medications like hydroxychloroquine as miracle drugs despite no supporting evidence. And as cases surge in dozens of states, Fox has done everything in its power to deny the crisis is getting worse.
The results of the network's misinformation have been devastating. New studies suggest that death and infection rates are higher in places with higher Fox viewership. And there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to support such conclusions.
In recent weeks, however, some have credited Fox for softening its message on the efficacy of masks and other public health measures. For example, a Yahoo story from last week pointed to a recent moment when Fox “news”-side anchor Sandra Smith allowed a former Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director to make a point about the utility of masks without challenge.
But has Fox's message really shifted? The past week of coverage suggests otherwise:
- On July 9, Fox News contributor and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson told Fox anchor Trace Gallagher that “there’s very very little evidence that masks work to slow the community transmission of SARS-COV-2 or any respiratory virus,” despite ample research that says otherwise.
- On the July 9 edition of her prime-time show, Fox’s Laura Ingraham claimed without evidence that the U.S. is “closer to herd immunity.” Ingraham also mocked experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci for suggesting stay-at-home orders may be needed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying such measures amount to “a war against our way of life.”
- On July 8, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade downplayed the risk of reopening schools in the fall amid viral spread, saying, “Life is full of risks, kids should learn that early that life is full of hurdles.”
- During the July 7 edition of his prime-time show, Fox’s Tucker Carlson criticized schools that plan to implement social distancing and mask-wearing policies when they reopen, calling the measures “bizarre health theater” that have “no basis of any kind of science.”
- During an interview with Fox contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on July 7, Fox & Friends' Kilmeade said the discussion around the coronavirus needed to “stop focusing on the [number of] cases” because “the fatality rate’s 0.04%” for people under 70. “I agree with that completely,” Siegel said.
- Fox host Steve Hilton made several specious claims in a July 7 tweet, blaming viral spread on protests and writing that “99% cases [are] not significant.” In reality, COVID-19 has also been linked to other health complications like diabetes, permanent lung damage, strokes, psychosis, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, and more.
some ACTUAL data, science:
- 99% cases not significant
- no time correlation between cases/re-openings
- correlation is w/ protests
- most hospitalizations NOT covid
- case rise in young is GOOD, moves towards population immunity
— steve hilton (@SteveHiltonx) July 7, 2020
- Also on July 7, Siegel spun Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comment that “we’re still knee-deep in the first wave” of the coronavirus as a positive development. “I like his expression knee-deep,” he said. “Notice he didn't say thigh-deep, he said knee-deep."
- During a discussion about reopening schools on Fox’s Outnumbered on July 7, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway downplayed the risk of reopening schools, saying, “It's actually kind of criminal to ban children from school, and it's absurd that so many people have been doing it given the low risk of getting coronavirus or transmitting it.”
- A few days earlier, as a guest on MediaBuzz, Hemingway expressed outrage on behalf of mask skeptics. “The outrage and shame directed at skeptics of mask-wearing is excessive and almost certainly counterproductive. ... The media have overstated their confidence.”
- During the July 6 edition of Outnumbered Overtime, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee blamed Americans’ unwillingness to wear masks on mixed messages from public health officials: “The very people who are telling them they must wear a mask now are the ones in early March and April who said, "Don't wear a mask, it's very dangerous. … So for all the people who say, ‘well, the president shouldn't say it's harmless,’ I would also say those health people really messed up by giving mixed messages early on and then later completely reversing course.”