As the 2020 election heads into its final days, right-wing media have begun to set up a new narrative to oppose mainstream media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that media’s continuing focus on the surging COVID-19 cases will result in “voter suppression.”
While the virus is growing across the country, right-wing media have ignored the surge and tried to cast doubt on the data. At the same time, they’ve fearmongered and spread misinformation about voter fraud in mail-in voting, spread debunked tales of vote-buying , and have inspired President Donald Trump’s own denunciations of the electoral process.
While there has usually been no overall difference between Democratic and Republican voters on using the mail-in process, interest in it has risen much more among Democratic-leaning voters this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (Polling has also indicated that Democrats are more likely to take COVID-19 seriously than Republicans.)
Now things are starting to converge, as the window of reliably mailing the ballot for it to be counted has closed, and the election is going to come down to in-person voting and in-person return of absentee ballots. And right-wing media are starting to spin the narrative that the real “voter suppression” is to keep talking about the virus.
On Wednesday, right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that media reporting on CVOID-19 is “voter suppression” and is “designed to scare you into not going to vote on Election Day.” (Limbaugh has spread a similar conspiracy theory nearly two months ago.)
Previously, Limbaugh encouraged Trump supporters to head to the polls on Election Day as part of a plan to create an apparent Trump lead on election night — and then to claim victory, in an effort to delegitimize the continued counting of absentee ballots. Trump himself then joined in with this line of discussion during a two-hour interview on Limbaugh’s show three weeks ago.
And on Thursday’s edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox News correspondent Sean Duffy posited that while Trump’s “insensitivity around how serious” the coronavirus is would be hurting him with voters in Duffy’s home state of Wisconsin, the “bigger liability right now” would come from Democrats and the media scaring people out of going to the polls on Tuesday, after Democrats had likely built up an advantage with early votes.