Fox News Coronavirus decline of coverage
Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Month to month, Fox News’ coronavirus coverage has dropped more than 20%

The last week has seen a more than 40% decline from peak coverage

  • Fox News’ coronavirus coverage has steadily declined over the last month according to a review of Media Matters’ internal cable news database. Cable news coverage of the novel coronavirus exploded the day after the World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic. From March 12 through April 10, 95% of weekday segments on Fox were related to the coronavirus. But in the following month, April 13 through May 11, the proportion of coronavirus-related weekday segments on Fox dropped to just 74%. In the last week, coronavirus-related weekday segments accounted for only 56% of all output from the network.

    By contrast, CNN’s coronavirus-related output has exceeded 90% every weekday -- except one -- since March 12. Similarly, coronavirus-related coverage on MSNBC accounted for more than 80% each day -- except one -- in the same time period.

  • Percent of cable news segments featuring coronavirus-related discussion
  • The proportion of weekday segments unrelated to the coronavirus has been increasing on Fox as the network has shifted to other topics, particularly the case against retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (which the Trump Department of Justice recently dropped), special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, and related attacks on members of the Obama administration.

  • Percent of Fox News segments not featuring coronavirus-related discussion
  • Even when discussing coronavirus-related topics, Fox has largely moved away from highlighting the science and medical concerns related to the pandemic in favor of focusing on the efforts to reopen the economy. The network oftentimes focuses on stories such as that of salon owner Shelley Luther from Dallas, Texas, who chose to go to jail rather than apologize and pay a fine for violating stay-at-home guidelines. Fox devoted nearly three hours of coverage to Luther’s story over a three-and-a-half-day period. Similarly, the network jumped at covering reopen protests, promoting them, praising them, and devoting six hours of coverage to the protests in an eight-day period.

    Increasingly, Fox figures are pushing the idea that Americans should be “patriotic” and go back to work for the good of the economy, yet they’re usually saying so from the comfort of their own homes. Fox itself is extending its work-from-home directive through at least June 15.

    As the focus on Fox has shifted overwhelmingly toward reopening, the number of Fox appearances by medical members of the president’s coronavirus task force has dramatically reduced from a high of 10 to 14 appearances a week in the two weeks following WHO’s declaration of a pandemic to a low of just one appearance a week over the last two weeks. Likewise, appearances by Fox News’ medical contributors are also starting to decline; they appeared regularly on the network -- roughly 30 to 40 times a week and some weeks up to 45 times -- until May, when their appearances dropped to 15 or fewer a week.

    Fox’s coronavirus coverage has been extraordinarily problematic, with polling showing that the network has endangered its viewers, but the shift away from covering the story as Americans continue to die every day from COVID-19 is equally problematic.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters used an internal database to track the number of weekday segments that included discussion of the coronavirus from March 12 through May 11, 2020, from 6 a.m. to midnight each weekday. We also searched for weekday appearances of medical members of the coronavirus task force on Fox News -- Jerome Adams, Alex Azar, Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, Stephen Hahn, Robert Redfield, and Seema Verma -- and of Fox News medical contributors -- Janette Nesheiwat, Manny Alvarez, Marc Siegel, Marty Makary, and Nicole Saphier -- in our database. We included only original appearance airings and did not include reruns.

    We included news packages and updates from correspondents and interviews and panels with guests in our segment analysis. Analysts used internal tools to identify and label such segments as related to the coronavirus; in general, we defined a coronavirus-related segment as one where analysts noted any amount of discussion about the coronavirus and identified the segment topic as related to public health.