On Thursday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden proposed a three-month national mask mandate, saying that “every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing” in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Right-wing media immediately leapt at the opportunity to smear Biden’s proposal as “tyrannical,” incorrectly stating that he wants to implement mask-wearing indefinitely and taking Biden out of context to suggest an indifference to Americans’ rights.
As the U.S. continues to grapple with its unique failure to address the coronavirus, it’s clear that wearing masks is a simple and effective way to mitigate the spread, and the Center for Disease Control recommends their use. A July study found that 40,000 lives could have been saved in two months if a national mask mandate for public-facing employees had been implemented in April. A model from the University of Washington found that near-universal mask-wearing in the U.S. could prevent between 17,742 and 28,030 deaths by October 1; an April projection from Arizona State University found that “24–65% of projected deaths could be prevented in Washington state in April and May if 80% of people wore cloth or homemade masks in public.”
Still, a portion of the American public has remained resistant to the idea of wearing masks. Facebook is rife with groups of people pushing disinformation around the science behind mask wearing, and multiple interactions have gone viral this summer showing people berating employees trying to enforce mask mandates. (This week, Republican Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer signed a law making it a felony to assault an employee trying to enforce mask-wearing.)
While polls have shown significant support in the U.S. for mask mandates, some in right-wing media have joined President Donald Trump in attacking Biden’s proposal. Some are arguing that a mandate would be “tyrannical,” while others have incorrectly suggested that Biden wants to implement mask-wearing indefinitely. Some are also taking Biden out of context to suggest that he doesn’t care about Americans’ rights, while the full context shows Biden encouraging people to prioritize the responsibility to mitigate the spread over one’s right to refuse to wear a mask. Here are some examples:
- Fox host Greg Gutfeld suggested that Biden is a “tyrant” for proposing a mask mandate, and co-host Jesse Waters asked another co-host, “Do you think this is tyrannical?”
- The Daily Caller quoted Trump in a headline: “Biden’s national mask mandate shows ‘an appalling lack of respect for the American people.’”
- Fox host Tucker Carlson declared that “you don't have any rights anymore.” His guest Fox News medical contributor Marc Siegel described the proposed mandate as “the politics of fear: big government edition.”
- Fox host Dana Perino suggested that a national mask mandate would lead to a “nanny state type of thing.”
- Fox host Lisa Kennedy fearmongered that a mask mandate would lead to a “real gestapo that comes in and spies on people and lets the police know because we already don't trust the police.”
- Guest-hosting for The Ingraham Angle, Raymond Arroyo and a medical panel inaccurately argued that masks are relatively ineffective in many situations and attacked Biden’s mask mandate proposal.
- Former Fox Business host Trish Regan tweeted that the mandate proposal “is a new low for the DEM party.”
- Right-wing cartoonist Ben Garrison tweeted: “‘It’s not about your rights,’ Joe Biden says as he calls for a nationwide mask mandate. ALL you need to know about the Democratic ticket. #tyranny.”
- Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza similarly tweeted: “‘It’s not about your rights,’ Joe Biden says as he calls for a nationwide mask mandate. Those 5 words tell you everything you need to know about the Democratic ticket.”
- Blaze TV’s Sara Gonzales claimed that Biden “has no problem shitting on the Constitution by calling for a national mask mandate.”
- Right-wing commentator Candace Owens tweeted: “So @JoeBiden is calling for a national mask mandate. It seems this week, our senile candidate believes he is running for President of Iran.”
- Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadapolous tweeted that Biden’s platform includes “making sure we are all forced to wear a mask while shutting down the country for an indefinite time.”