Right-wing media suggested COVID-19 fatalities were overcounted. New data suggests a significant undercount.
Federal data on excess U.S. deaths since the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic shows a sharper rise in deaths than confirmed COVID-19 fatalities alone account for, according to a Yale University analysis conducted for The Washington Post. Though the excess deaths -- “the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year” -- are “not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19,” the Yale analysis suggests “the death toll from the pandemic is significantly higher than has been reported.”
The data deeply undermines the right-wing media claim that coronavirus fatalities are being overcounted. Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree and conspiracy theorist Rush Limbaugh said that “governments are eager, almost, to chalk up as many deaths to coronavirus as they can because then it furthers the policies they have put in place.” Fox’s Brit Hume notably argued on Twitter and on-air that fatalities in New York were overcounted because the figures don’t “distinguish between those who die with the disease and those who die from it.” Fox contributor and Laura Ingraham sidekick Raymond Arroyo even suggested that hospitals have a financial incentive to inflate COVID-19 fatalities, which was also echoed by One America News Network host Graham Ledger.
A widespread conspiracy theory of “empty hospitals” also made rounds on social media and on Fox, its proponents alleging that photos and videos of hospital parking lots and waiting rooms proved that the pandemic was not as bad as the media reported. Among many others, the theory was promoted by Fox News host Steve Hilton, Fox contributor Sara Carter, and former Fox contributor Todd Starnes.
The Fox prime-time lineup was eager to declare “Mission Accomplished” in early April, because reported deaths did not match the severity of earlier projections, ignoring all of the work and sacrifice that went into pushing the curve downward.
It is little wonder that after weeks of reckless coverage from Fox and other right-wing media, Fox News viewers have come to falsely believe that the number of COVID-19 fatalities has been inflated.