We’ve reached the phase of Fox News defenses of President Donald Trump’s response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 where the network starts invoking Benghazi.
As coronavirus continues to spread through the United States, it is becoming more and more clear that the steps the Trump administration took to contain it were woefully insufficient. From eliminating pandemic response capabilities to restricting the availability of testing to politicizing public health plans to failing to accurately communicate to the public, the list of failures is lengthy.
That’s not how it’s playing on Fox, of course, where the president’s response is typically treated as brilliant and those who question it described as political hacks trying to take down his administration. And amid such a hagiographic take on Tuesday night, prime-time host Laura Ingraham broke new ground by invoking the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to claim that Trump had done a better job on coronavirus than a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton would have.
“Our economy is the best in the world -- why? Due to the policies and the foresight of President Trump,” she declared at the top of the monologue. “He understands the importance -- remember this, it's very critical to remember this at this time -- of preserving strong nation-states, namely our own.”
Ingraham then turned to the realm of counterfactual, propping up Trump’s response by comparing it to the one his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election might have provided.
“And what if, what if the Wuhan virus had hit after Hillary Clinton had won the presidency?” she asked. “If her handling of Benghazi is any guide, it would've been a nightmare, and certainly her economy would have already stalled.”
She concluded with this exercise in Dear-Leaderism: “In times of crisis, it helps to have a president who makes his own decisions, who marshals the right resources, and surrounds himself with the most competent people to do the job. He doesn't give in to the bureaucracy, he bends it to be more nimble. He pushes obstacles out of the way and solves problems. He has a take-charge, hands-on approach to the coronavirus and every other problem he faces. He’ll work with Democrats on a legislative package to help working families. He’ll do for our emergency response system what he's done for our economy, make it stronger and better, day by day.”
Fox and the rest of the right-wing media spent years using lies and deception to paint the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi as an all-purpose scandal they could deploy at whim. It was perhaps only a matter of time until they found a way to link it to coronavirus.