In the weeks leading up to President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over the novel coronavirus pandemic, some of Fox News’ most frequent medical contributors and commentators have been spreading misinformation, pushing Trump’s bogus talking points, and blindly praising Trump’s botched response to the outbreak.
On March 13, Trump -- while disavowing any responsibility for the failure to widely test Americans for COVID-19 to help mitigate its spread -- declared the outbreak was a national emergency, freeing up more government resources to combat the disease. This move came amid widespread reporting that detailed how badly the Trump administration has mismanaged the outbreak so far.
In the weeks prior to Trump’s emergency declaration, Fox has downplayed the dangers of this disease, pushed conspiracy theories about its origins, and irresponsibly praised Trump for his response. And some of Fox’s most frequent guest medical experts discussing the outbreak, including paid network contributors, have also been pushing misinformation about coronavirus during this time period.
Dr. Marc Siegel is a Fox News medical contributor who spent years misinforming about and attacking the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, including an early version of the vile “death panels” smear. He has claimed that “too many people” have health insurance and pushed for harmful Medicaid work requirements. Of Fox’s medical contributors, Siegel has pushed the most misinformation related to coronavirus; before March 13, he made at least 47 weekday appearances to discuss the outbreak:
- On March 12, Siegel excused Trump from responsibility over his administration’s documented failure to widely test Americans.
- Also on March 12, Siegel said, “I would absolutely applaud the president's move” to ban most travel from Europe, which experts criticized, adding that it was “a bold move, and that's the kind of moves he’s been making.”
- On March 11, Siegel echoed Trump’s misleading comparison of his coronavirus response to Obama’s response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
- On March 6, Siegel said the “worst case scenario” for coronavirus is “it could be the flu.” In later appearances, he acknowledged that flu is “a big killer” and coronavirus is “more contagious than we thought originally.”
- Also on March 6, Siegel attacked the World Health Organization as “a bunch of alarmists, they are saber rattlers.”
- Again on March 6, Siegel claimed coronavirus concerns are being intentionally overblown to hurt Trump politically.
- On February 17, Siegel said he “can’t believe how well” the administration is handling the outbreak.
Dr. Nicole Saphier is also a Fox News medical contributor. In her past appearances on Fox, she has blamed Obamacare for Americans dying of preventable illnesses, said expanding Medicare will make it worse, and dismissed the health consequences of keeping separated immigrant children in cages. She has also misled about how the Republicans’ 2017 Obamacare replacement bill would hurt protections for preexisting conditions. Prior to March 13, Saphier made at least 14 weekday appearances to discuss coronavirus:
- On March 12, Saphier dismissed an accusation that Trump had been covering up his botched response to the pandemic, instead pointing to China’s early efforts to cover it up.
- Also on March 12, Saphier mocked the Democratic presidential candidates’ speeches detailing how they would handle the pandemic as an Oprah-style giveaway.
- On March 11, Saphier praised Trump for focusing on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while ignoring its public health aspect.
- On February 28, Saphier said, “The economic and emotional toll from misinformation is going to hit us much harder than this virus is in itself.”
Dr. Manny Alvarez was a longtime Fox News medical contributor and is now the channel’s senior managing editor for health news. Like Siegel, Alvarez has a history of misleading about Obamacare. He also argued against giving young girls a cancer-preventing vaccine and has misled about reproductive rights. Before March 13, Alvarez appeared on Fox at least five times on weekdays to talk about the outbreak:
- On March 10, Alvarez said, “I think that the federal response has been incredibly positive.”
- On February 4, Alvarez said of the outbreak: “I think that this is going to come and it’s going to go. I think we have it under control. I think that President Trump's task force is magnificent.” He added, “I've never seen such a quick response.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz has his own weekday talk show on ABC. He also has a record of pushing bogus medical advice and supplements, and he has given airtime to the debunked and abusive “ex-gay therapy” theory. Before March 13, Oz made at least seven weekday appearances on Fox News and Fox Business shows to talk about the coronavirus outbreak:
- On March 9, Oz suggested it was fine for younger, healthy Americans to go out as normal, saying, “I don’t want the rest of the U.S. population shutting down.”
- Also on March 9, Oz claimed he and the hosts of Fox & Friends “probably wouldn’t have an issue” if they became infected with the coronavirus.
- On January 27, Oz helped Fox & Friends push a dubious video about coronavirus in China.
Dr. Janette Nesheiwat has been introduced on Fox News during coronavirus segments as a family and emergency medicine doctor and the medical director of a chain of urgent care clinics in New York and New Jersey. Prior to March 13, Nesheiwat appeared on Fox at least 12 times on weekdays to talk about the outbreak, and in earlier appearances she downplayed its severity in the U.S.:
Update (3/18/20): On March 16, Fox News hired Dr. Janette Nesheiwat as a medical contributor.
Correction (3/19/20): This piece has been updated to reflect the correct date for Siegel’s Fox Business appearance which was incorrectly dated February 27 in an earlier version of this article. Siegel actually said he “can’t believe how well” the administration is handling the outbreak on February 17.