As states around the country begin to reopen amid rising coronavirus cases, health experts have emphasized that widespread contact-tracing programs will be essential to mitigating further spread of the virus.
On Fox News, some hosts and guests have attacked the concept in late April and May, portraying the programs as a tyrannical threat to civil liberties and arguing illogical slippery slope fallacies based on false equivalences to non-contagious conditions, such as heart attacks and car accidents.
Misinformation around contact tracing has already had consequences. NPR recently reported that local health care workers have “encountered resistance, online harassment and even violent threats for conducting contact tracing and other containment strategies in their local communities.” BuzzFeed has reported similar harassment stemming from disinformation directed toward workers doing contact tracing:
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank researching online disinformation, has found dozens of Facebook posts and YouTube videos spreading hoaxes and lies about contact tracers have received hundreds of thousands of views since the beginning of the pandemic.
And it's worried that the posts present a danger to public health.
“We very quickly started to see a pretty concerted effort to direct existing conspiracy theories and disinformation tropes toward the contact tracing narrative,” Chloe Colliver, head of digital analysis and policy at ISD, told BuzzFeed News.
Here are some examples of Fox News personalities recklessly fearmongering about the use of contact tracing in April and May:
- On her Saturday night show, Fox host Jeanine Pirro said, “Don’t you even think about tracing or tracking or giving me a card. It ain't happening.”
- Discussing states’ efforts to start contract tracing, Fox Business anchor Melissa Francis said, “I understand the health importance of this. But then … something makes me feel a little Big Brother about this.”
- On The Ingraham Angle, Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed that if we do contact tracing for COVID-19, “then we should trace everybody for cancer, and heart disease, and obesity.” Giuliani also said, “A lot of things kill you more than COVID-19, so we should be traced for all those things,” even though none of the conditions Giuliani listed are contagious.
- Fox host Steve Hilton said that it is “totally absurd” to suggest that contact tracing will mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Hilton attacked state leaders for “hiring armies of busy body contact traitors to implement this idiotic, unscientific, reckless establishment groupthink that the only way we can open up is widespread testing, contact tracing, and isolating.”
- Fox contributor Lisa Boothe said that demanding contact tracing before reopening represents “a shifting of the goalposts.”
- On her prime-time show, Fox host Laura Ingraham fearmongered about contact tracing and the involvement of the Gates Foundation, saying that there is a “new threat to our rights on the horizon.”
- In an opening monologue attacking contact tracing on May 21, Ingraham compared the coronavirus to gun violence or climate change, saying, “There are always going to be plenty of reasons cited by government bureaucrats or unelected technocrats to justify taking your freedoms away. They'll cite scary things like gun violence, climate change, and now of course COVID, maybe the next virus.”
- Fox host Tucker Carlson fearmongered in an opening monologue that contact tracing is a “Chinese police state tactic.”