Coronavirus safety measure protests

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Promotion, praise, and a ton of coverage: How Fox News embraced protests against coronavirus safety measures

  • Update (4/21/20): This post has been updated with data from Monday, April 20. The original study went through Sunday, April 19.

    While state governors have attempted to slow the coronavirus outbreak through a number of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, right-wing activists have organized a series of protests across the country calling for the reopening of businesses and the end of social distancing orders. Fox News has given extensive coverage to these protests -- promoting the events, praising and encouraging the protesters, as well as hosting rally organizers -- despite warnings from medical experts that opening up the country too soon could backfire, setting everyone back in the fight against coronavirus.

  • Over the course of eight days, from April 13 through 20, Fox News devoted 91 segments to the story, spending 6 hours covering the protests.

  • Fox & Friends First aired 15 segments about the protests, followed by America’s Newsroom with 11 segments. Rounding out the shows with the most segments were Fox & Friends with 10 segments, and Your World with Neil Cavuto and Fox News @ Night with 7 segments each.

  • Fox provided the most single-day coverage on April 20, spending an hour and 38 minutes on the protests.

  • Fox personalities went out of their way to gush over the protests and praise those participating, even overlooking obvious issues like the lack of social distancing:

  • Fox’s promotion of the protests went past just excessive coverage; the network also --

    • Hosted protest organizers seven times: At least four protest organizers were hosted by the network for a total of seven appearances. Meshawn Maddock, an organizer with the Michigan Conservative Coalition -- who is also on the National Advisory Board of Women for Trump and co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans -- has made four appearances on the network. Fox also hosted Michigan Conservative Coalition organizers Matt Seely and Rosanne Ponkowski, as well as Michele Even, who organized a protest in Minnesota with Liberate Minnesota. 
    • Hosted sheriffs who are refusing to enforce Michigan’s stay-at-home orders four times: On four occasions Fox hosted Michigan sheriffs who have said they won’t strictly enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. Sheriffs Dar Leaf, Kim Cole, and Ted Schendel all appeared on the network to explain their opposition to some of Michigan’s guidelines. 
    • Aired graphics promoting the time and place of upcoming protests: Fox News has repeatedly aired maps and graphics promoting upcoming protests. On Friday's Outnumbered, there was an on-screen graphic noting that the Minnesota protests would be starting at 1 p.m. Emerging rallies / protests to reopen economy
    • Repeatedly thanked and praised protesters and organizers for their efforts, and encouraged them to continue organizing: Neil Cavuto wished protesters in California “good luck”, while showing protesters holding signs calling COVID-19 “a lie.” On Hannity, Fox host Jeanine Pirro heaped praise upon the protests, saying, “The American spirit is too strong.” Pirro also mentioned the Michigan protesters and said, “God bless them,” noting that protests will continue to happen across the country. Anchor Harris Faulkner also used encouraging language for the protests, noting, “This country was kind of founded on people who were willing to risk themselves for freedom.” 

    • Aired false claims about the details of Michigan’s stay-at-home orders: On two occasions, Meshawn Maddock used her Fox interviews as a platform to spread misinformation saying that Michigan has barred the sale of the American flag.

    • Repeatedly showed images of Infowars personalities at the Texas protest: During the network’s protest coverage on Monday, Fox repeatedly aired b-roll footage of Infowars personalities Alex Jones and Owen Shroyer during protest segments. Infowars Fox News

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database service for any variation of the terms “protest” or “demand” or the term “anti-quarantine” within close proximity of any of the terms “social distance,” “social distancing,” “stay-at-home,” “shelter-in-place,” “closure,” “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” or any variation of the term “reopen” for Fox News Channel from April 13 through 20, 2020.

    We timed segments, teasers for upcoming segments, and passing mentions about the protests, which we defined as segments where the protests were the stated topic of discussion or segments that included “significant discussion” of the protests. We defined “significant discussion” as two or more speakers discussing the protests with one another.