Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel has been a constant presence on Fox’s coronavirus coverage since the beginning of the crisis. During these many, many appearances -- 318 since January 20 -- Siegel regularly pushes coronavirus misinformation, downplays the severity of the crisis, and discards science in favor of right-wing talking points.
During the critical early days of the pandemic in March, Siegel repeatedly compared COVID-19 to the flu and said concern about the pandemic was being exaggerated to attack President Donald Trump politically, then he became among the first Fox personalities to push hydroxychloroquine as a supposed miracle treatment. Studies have shown that Fox’s misleading coverage of the pandemic at this time may have worsened its spread in the United States, and experts have singled out Siegel’s comments as prime examples of the network’s COVID-19 misinformation.
Siegel’s misinformation and pro-Trump sycophancy have not abated. He has been more than happy to spin away the serious implications of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis. On September 25, Siegel downplayed the threat of the virus to young people, saying that if you're “under 70, it's almost impossible you are going to die" from COVID-19. This statement is reckless and false: not only does COVID-19 pose long-term risks even for young, healthy people, but increased spread of the disease among young people this past summer eventually reached older and more vulnerable populations. Despite his dubious commentary on the pandemic, which has been repeatedly criticized by members of the mainstream media, Siegel has a new book titled COVID: The Politics of Fear and the Power of Science set to be released next month.
Siegel downplayed the president’s diagnosis
- On October 2, Siegel promoted hydroxychloroquine following the news of Trump’s coronavirus infection, saying that “research has not really backed” up the efficacy of the drug, but “I don’t think it’s ever been ruled out.”
- Siegel, who has engaged in unsubstantiated speculation about the health of former Vice President Joe Biden, downplayed Trump’s positive diagnosis for COVID-19, telling Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, “There is no question in my mind by the way, Brian, he can perform his duties 100%. No symptoms, that’s not even an issue here.”
- On October 7, less than a week after the president announced he had contracted the novel coronavirus, Siegel said there's no concern over Trump working in the West Wing while still contagious despite the threat it poses to White House staff. He also noted that “the ventilation system and the air purification system in the Oval Office is excellent.”
Siegel has downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus since the earliest days of the pandemic
- On March 6, Siegel said the “worst-case scenario” for coronavirus is “it could be the flu.”
- That same day, he claimed coronavirus concerns are being intentionally overblown to hurt Trump politically.
- He attacked the World Health Organization as “a bunch of alarmists” and “saber rattlers” for warning about coronavirus, claiming, “There's no reason to believe that it's actually more problematic or deadly than influenza.” (About a month later, Siegel attacked the WHO for “underreacting.”)
- On March 8, Siegel agreed with Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth after he said, “I feel like the more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.” Siegel responded, “I was about to say the same thing.”
- On March 10, he called concern about coronavirus “paranoia” and suggested it was caused by a “fear of going outdoors. It’s agoraphobia, they have testing for that.”
- On April 20, Siegel cited unreliable antibody testing data to claim: “The death rate is much, much lower than we’ve been talking about if you think about all these asymptomatic cases versus the tragic 600 that passed away. … We’re talking about a virus that for most cases is dramatically mild, we’re talking about a lower fatality rate than we thought.”
- On April 24, Siegel again used antibody data to claim that “the hospitalization rate and the death rate, especially, is way much lower than what we thought it was. Much lower.”
- On May 13, he said there will be no “big second wave” of coronavirus in America and pushed to reopen schools in person, adding: “Politically, if you think the Democrats are going to let the liberal colleges stay closed, think again. Those are their future voters.”
- On July 5, Siegel downplayed the surge of summer cases as “manageable” and claimed “overall it’s milder cases,” even as the daily death toll began to rise again.
- On July 7, he said schools need to reopen because “the risk to teachers is so much lower than it is to doctors.”
- On the same day, Siegel said, “The spread among the young is not what is leading to the deaths or hospitalizations.” Recent research has shown this is false: During the time period Siegel made this remark, young people were catching and spreading the disease and may have later passed it on to older, more vulnerable populations.
- Siegel on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s assessment that the U.S. is “knee-deep” in the coronavirus crisis: “Notice he didn't say ‘thigh-deep.’ … We’re not seeing in the West and the South as many sick patients, as many patients on ventilators.”
- Siegel praised Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for his handling of the coronavirus on July 13, even as new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 were all going up in the state.
Siegel was among the first on Fox News to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19
- On March 12, Siegel was among the first Fox personalities to promote hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
- Two days later, Siegel called the use of the drug in other countries as a COVID-19 treatment “promising.”
- On March 21, Fox host Jeanine Pirro praised Siegel in an interview for being “among the first to tell us about a critical drug that’s being looked at to fight the coronavirus.”
- On March 23, Siegel said that “a lot of early evidence looks good” regarding hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.
- The next day Siegel said he agreed “completely” with host Tucker Carlson that “the media are saying” hydroxychloroquine is “a conspiracy theory just because Trump mentioned it.”
- On March 24, Siegel said hydroxychloroquine “may very well be” a treatment for COVID-19.
- Siegel promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a “very promising” prophylactic for COVID-19, even as he admitted the lack of “substantial clinical trials” studying the drug on March 27’s Tucker Carlson Tonight.
- On March 30, he praised Carlson for focusing on hydroxychloroquine and partly attributed the network’s coverage to the FDA’s emergency use authorization.
- On April 3, Siegel said: “I can't prove to you that [hydroxychloroquine] works at this point, but it's extremely promising. And there's a lot of evidence that it does work.”
- Siegel promoted hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment by citing his own father's experience using the drug to treat an unspecified illness.
- On July 6, Carlson and Siegel cited a flawed study in order to continue pushing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 weeks after the FDA had revoked its emergency use authorization.
Siegel has discarded science in favor of pro-Trump sycophancy, partisan commentary, and racism
- After Carlson made a series of racist statements blaming Chinese people and culture for the spread of coronavirus in January, Siegel responded, “That’s an extremely important scientific point,” and said, “I think you’re absolutely right that it starts with the culture over there.”
- On February 17, Siegel said he “can't believe how well” the Trump administration is handling the coronavirus response, adding: “The proof is in the pudding. We have 15 people in the United States with it. That's it. No one has died.”
- Three days later, Siegel described Trump’s leadership on the coronavirus as “tremendous” and said the administration is “spreading confidence.”
- After reports came out that the administration flew home infected Americans together with uninfected passengers, Siegel praised Trump’s response: “I think the task force appointed by the president is doing a very good job.”
- On February 27, Siegel complained Trump “is getting no credit for” putting together “an incredibly competent task force that has a lot of experience with emerging contagions and they are quite right to say the risk, right now, to Americans is low.”
- Siegel described Trump’s European travel ban as “bold” and said, “It’s very presidential and it’s leadership,” in a March 11 appearance on Hannity.
- On March 12, Siegel said he would “absolutely applaud” Trump’s “bold move” to ban travel from Europe. (In a recent interview on Fox News Sunday, global health philanthropist Bill Gates told anchor Chris Wallace the ban likely worsened the spread of the pandemic.)
- On May 14, Siegel said Dr. Anthony Fauci’s job is to agree with Trump: “He’s there to serve the president.”
- The day after Trump’s June 20 indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Siegel said, “I don’t see any difference between having a rally and having protests from a purely public health point of view. Very disappointing to see all the politicizing going on.” (Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died from complications due to the coronavirus shortly after attending the rally in support of Trump.)
- On June 24, Siegel blamed the media for misrepresenting Trump’s comments about purposely slowing testing for COVID-19, saying his own words were “one of those media hit jobs” and claiming, “The president was joking there.”
- In the middle of the summer surge of cases in Florida, Siegel praised Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approach during a segment about DeSantis’ refusal to roll back statewide reopening measures, calling him “inspiring.”
- Siegel pushed Trump campaign talking points falsely labeling Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris as “anti-vaxx,” ignoring that the Trump administration has been undermining scientists in the federal government while promising a viable vaccine by Election Day, which is fueling skepticism toward the president’s claims.
- On August 6, Siegel spun Trump’s falsehoods on the risk of coronavirus to children on one of Fox’s “straight news” shows: “I can’t interpret” what Trump meant when he said children are “almost immune” from coronavirus.
- A week later, Siegel described Biden’s proposed mask mandate as “the politics of fear: big government edition.”
Siegel’s punditry has contradicted and undermined health experts
- Siegel attacked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for using mathematical models to plan for coronavirus needs.
- Siegel claimed that because COVID tests are not 100% reliable, “If you test people in areas where there are not a lot of virus, Brian, you’re going to get a false result. You’re going to think it’s negative and it really may not be. So testing can be part of the strategy, but it can’t be the whole strategy. ... There’s huge collateral damage -- huge collateral damage in terms of suffering and death -- if we don’t consider the economy here.”
- On May 19, Siegel made a direct appeal to Trump to refuse funding to the World Health Organization during the pandemic unless there is a “huge overhaul” at the public health institution.
- Siegel said epidemiological modeling is “guesswork” and should not be used to make decisions about mitigating the spread of the virus, claiming, “They're not based on real numbers.” Siegel’s comment set Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade up to spread even more coronavirus misinformation, saying, “We've shut down an entire country for 0.3% of those who get it lose their lives. “
- After Siegel praised a discredited Chinese virologist’s “great credentials” and said he is “very willing to listen very carefully,” President Trump retweeted a QAnon account which posted the interview along with the caption: “Dr Siegel is so pissed off he threw Fauci under the bus with the Chinese! Holy crap! #TheMoreYouKnow”
Update (10/9/20): This piece has been updated with additional examples.