Right-wing media figures spread “empty hospitals" theory to downplay the threat of coronavirus

While the COVID-19 infection and death rates in the United States continue to climb, some right-wing media figures are using photos and videos of empty hospital parking lots and waiting rooms to somehow prove that the situation is not as bad as the media is portraying. 

Proponents of the conspiracy theory are downplaying the severity of the crisis and claiming that nearly empty hospital parking lots and waiting rooms are signs that the number of coronavirus cases is being exaggerated by the media.They are also encouraging others to investigate local medical facilities and share their videos and photos along with the phrase “empty hospitals” or the hashtag “#FilmYourHospital” (the latter originated from an account that supports the QAnon conspiracy theory). Indeed, two other QAnon conspiracy theorists — Liz Crokin and former congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero — have pushed the conspiracy theory online as well.

QAnon conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin claims Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, CA is "not overflowing with patients."

On Sunday, Fox News host Steve Hilton hosted a panel discussion about supposed free speech concerns around coronavirus on his show. Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz began by saying, “I would love to see statistics, for instance, on how full our hospitals really are. I mean, I see these passionate -- you know, these people coming out of caring for these people, and it's hard to watch and I believe them from their heart -- but I would love to know what those real numbers are.” Fox News contributor Sara Carter responded, “People are driving by their hospitals and they're not seeing -- in the ones that I'm seeing -- they’re not seeing anybody in the parking lots. They're not seeing anybody drive up. So, people are wondering what's going inside the hospital. How many people are actually in the hospitals that are suffering from coronavirus, how many ventilators, are the ICUs really being filled, how full are they?”

Video file

Citation From the March 29, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Next Revolution

Carter and talk radio host Todd Starnes, who as a Fox host once likened immigrants to Nazis, pushed the conspiracy theory online in recent days. 

Fox Radio host Todd Starnes tweets about "empty hospitals" during the COVID-19 crisis.
Fox contributor Sara Carter tweets about "empty hospitals" during the COVID-19 crisis.

Starnes’ vid was also shared by the far-right Patriot Prayer group on Facebook.

Far-right Patriot Prayer group shares COVID-19 denialism post on Facebook

Far-right social media figures have also begun pushing the theory, including racist YouTube troll Joseph Saladino, who last year launched and subsequently folded a campaign for Congress in Staten Island. 

Former congressional candidate and youtube troll Joseph Saladino claims he's "seeing more and more" videos of "empty hospitals" amid COVID-19 crisis.

As the campaign continues to spread from right-wing figures on social media, more people have begun promoting the “empty hospitals” conspiracy theory:

Trump supporter Scott Presler claims a local hospital in Fairfax Co. is nearly empty amid COVID-19 crisis.
Twitter user Jim Corr claims hospitals in LA are "empty."
Atlanta radio host Larry Wachs claims there are "empty hospitals from across the country."