For the first time in its 16-year history, Media Matters for America is naming Fox News the “Misinformer of the Year,” citing an estimated 13,551 on-air lies about the coronavirus that undermined public safety measures and contributed to the United States’ skyrocketing caseload and death count.
Angelo Carusone, President of Media Matters for America explained the 2020 Misinformer of the Year designation:
No matter how you look at it, no single entity had a more damaging effect on the U.S. pandemic response than Fox News.
While it’s true that social media, and especially Facebook, helped saturate the landscape with COVID misinformation, much of the most prolific COVID misinformation that circulated on social media either was or originated from a Fox News story or was subsequently picked up by Fox News.
The well documented Fox-Trump feedback loop meant that Fox News had a significant influence on the U.S. pandemic response. Trump enacted what he saw on Fox News and Fox News ran cover for the harms resulting from those enactments. From Trump promoting hydroxychloroquine as a magic cure early in the pandemic to the hiring of Fox favorite Scott Atlas, a champion of intentionally infecting the public in order to race to herd immunity, Fox’s influence on U.S. response is evident on policy big and small.
Fox News deserves this designation for its role in worsening the pandemic response -- directly and indirectly contributing to mass death.
While Fox News’ deliberate lies about the coronavirus and public efforts to curb its spread were on their own bad enough to earn it the 2020 Misinformer of the Year designation, Media Matters also points to three other factors: (1) Fox actively spread white supremacist propaganda on the network, helping fuel and grow far-right violence; (2) Fox undermined faith in America’s election integrity by deliberately spreading lies about voting, and (3) Fox promoted climate science denial in the wake of major wildfires and climate emergencies. Media Matters points out that:
Fox News’ coverage of the racial justice protests revolved around terrorizing its audience by fixating on instances of rioting, arson, looting, and property damage, at times citing hoaxes or other misinformation. This coverage, which the president watched and echoed, resulted in more indiscriminate violence, as law enforcement attacked protestors and reporters with impunity, cheered on by the president and his propagandists.
Fox News cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results nearly 600 times over the nine days after the network declared Biden had won, and as a result, its audience doesn’t believe that Biden actually won.
A non-comprehensive list of 1,000+ examples of Fox News misinformation in 2020 can be found here.