March 25, 2020 edition of The Ingraham Angle on hydroxychloroquine treatment for coronavirus

Research/Study Research/Study

Over three days this week, Fox News promoted an antimalarial drug treatment for coronavirus over 100 times

Fox’s promotion of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as possible treatments downplays the risk of the disease

  • Update: Media Matters continued to track claims promoting and questioning the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine through March 29. In segments about the antimalarial drugs, Fox News personalities and guests promoted the use of this drug treatment 146 times. By contrast, CNN's journalists and guests did so only five times while MSNBC's did not promote the use of the drugs at all.

  • Cable news coverage of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine
  • Original report: This week, Fox News has continued its reckless speculation and endorsement of two antimalarial drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, as treatment for the coronavirus. Fox’s promotion comes as President Donald Trump reviews relaxing potential social distancing guidelines despite warnings against such a move from health experts. The network’s personalities and guests promoted the use of the drugs over 100 times from March 23 through 25, creating a dangerous false impression of a working treatment for the deadly disease. By contrast, Fox hardly discussed the lack of evidence for the medications’ efficacy in treating COVID-19.

  • MSNBC’s journalists and guests did not make any claims promoting the use of either drug in the period studied, and CNN’s journalists and guests did so only three times. And both networks were more likely than Fox to discuss the medications’ unproven ability to treat coronavirus. CNN made such points 33 times -- more than twice as often as Fox. MSNBC’s coverage included only doubts about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

  • Both networks spent much more time on claims casting doubt on the treatments than Fox did. CNN and MSNBC each spent around a half-hour over the three-day period while Fox gave such doubts only seven minutes. By contrast, Fox spent nearly 90 minutes promoting the use of the drugs. CNN only spent five minutes doing that, and MSNBC did not spend any time at all.

    Fox personalities and guests who advocated for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine most often were television personality Mehmet Oz, known professionally as Dr. Oz; The Ingraham Angle host Laura Ingraham; Hannity host Sean Hannity; and Fox & Friends hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsley Earhardt. Hannity and Trump frequently engage in late-night phone calls, and Fox & Friends is the president’s go-to morning show.

    Fox’s focus on the antimalarial drugs comes just as the United States has surpassed China to become the country with the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world. As Trump considers plans to ease federal guidelines on social distancing and expresses a desire to “have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter” -- propositions that both health experts and economists believe could have disastrous consequences -- Fox’s promotion of the drugs obscures the very real possibility of a worsening pandemic.

    Already, Americans have begun hoarding these medications, which has led to a shortage for patients who need them to treat conditions for which the drugs are actually meant. And an Arizona man died after he and his wife ingested chloroquine phosphate, rather than hydroxychloroquine, upon hearing the antimalarial drugs discussed on television.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream and iQ media video databases for segments with any of the terms “hydroxychloroquine,” "malaria drug,” “antimalarial,” “azithromycin,” or any words with the roots “hydro” or “chloro” on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC from March 23 through 25, 2020.

    We included segments about the drugs in our analysis. Within those segments, we counted the number of claims that either promoted the use of the drugs or that cast doubt on the efficacy of the drugs. We defined a single claim as an uninterrupted block of speech. For news packages, we considered clips supporting statements from a speaker as part of that speaker’s block of speech. We timed each claim individually. Times are rounded to the nearest minute.

    We counted as promotion of the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine any claims that encouraged the use of the drugs, including statements endorsing such treatments currently in use, mentions of personal use of such treatments, and expressions of hope or optimism that such treatments will work. We included any statements indicating that the drugs saved someone’s life as promotion.

    We counted as casting doubt on the efficacy of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine any claims about the lack of clinical trials, the lack of solid scientific data or information, or the dangers of such treatments.