The Murdochs have blood on their hands

Rupert Murdoch bears responsibility for the Trump COVID-19 response that reportedly “disgust[s]” him

Rupert Lachlan Murdoch

Citation Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch is reportedly “disgusted” by President Donald Trump’s failed handling of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. He and his son Lachlan Murdoch, who currently oversees the network, are also partly responsible for it.

Murdoch has complained to confidants that Trump “is not listening to advice about how best to handle the pandemic” which is “creating a never-ending crisis for his administration,” according to a Thursday account from The Daily Beast. 

It’s true that Trump has ignored the counsel of experts throughout his failed handling of the pandemic, and the result has been a calamitous death toll from an unsuppressed pandemic with no end in sight. But the advice Trump took instead came from Murdoch employees at Fox. 

Trump is obsessed with Fox and treats its right-wing personalities as his closest advisers. The hours of Fox programming he watches each day shape his worldview. His administration’s policies are informed by what the network’s hosts tell him, both through his television and in private conversations. 

The coronavirus has proved no different. Virtually every presidential action on the pandemic has reflected Fox’s malign influence.

Fox told Trump that the virus was nothing to worry about -- just another “hoax” by journalists and Democrats who wanted to destroy him -- so he downplayed and ignored it for crucial weeks as it spread through the country. 

Fox told Trump that unproven antimalarial drugs were a miracle cure for COVID-19, and he put them at the center of his administration’s therapeutic push. The federal government has stockpiled tens of millions of doses of a drug that is apparently ineffective in stopping the virus.

Fox told Trump that face masks were both ineffective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus and a sign of Democratic authoritarianism, and he scorned them. Masks became a culture war issue that divided the parties, rather than a vital tool.

Fox told Trump to prioritize “reopening” the economy over stopping the spread of the virus and he obliged them. Seven months later, the virus is still not contained, and the economy is still faltering.

Fox told Trump that Scott Atlas, a radiologist and conservative think-tanker who regularly appeared on the network to downplay the virus, was a credible expert, so he hired him as a White House coronavirus adviser. The administration’s policy “is increasingly being shaped” by Atlas, who has championed a “herd immunity” approach that experts say could lead to a catastrophic death toll. 

The Murdochs elected a president who would dance to their network’s tune, and now Rupert is “disgusted” that it hasn’t worked out.

All of this was predictable, and I know that because I predicted it. 

“A significant number of Americans are likely to die -- prematurely and unnecessarily -- because Trump is taking advice from Fox News,” I warned on March 9, when the recorded count of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was only 500 and the network was telling the president it was nothing to worry about.

Two weeks later, with the death toll still numbered in the hundreds and the president following Fox personalities by praising the coronavirus-fighting properties of antimalarial drugs and pushing to swiftly end business closures, I wrote that the network “needs to get its hosts under control -- or take them off the air.”

“If Fox does neither, the network’s leaders will bear partial responsibility for the calamitous death toll that is likely to ensue,” I warned. “Fox's executives need to act -- if they don’t, the results could be catastrophic.”

Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch made their decision. They chose money and ideology over responsibility. And a lot of Americans are dead because of it.