Update (10/16/20): Following the publication of this post, Bolling reportedly told The New York Times that the segment “was being edited to remove some of his statements before airing this weekend on dozens of Sinclair stations.” A Sinclair spokesperson explained that Bolling “did not provide necessary context when providing commentary about the recent rise in new coronavirus cases.” According to the Times, “Mr. Bolling stood by his unsubstantiated claims that Chinese scientists had tampered with the virus.” Sinclair is set to air a town hall with President Donald Trump hosted by Bolling on October 21.
Sinclair Broadcast Group’s weekly program America This Week continues to be a source of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation thanks to its host Eric Bolling, who is now dismissing the effectiveness of face mask use and social distancing in slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus which has killed well over 200,000 Americans. During the new edition of his program, Bolling pushed this dangerous health misinformation, uncritically aired Trump’s claim of being immune to the virus, and repeated long-debunked lies that the virus was “altered” in a Chinese lab. His program is typically broadcast on weekends on more than 40 Sinclair-owned or -operated TV stations in about three dozen states, and the latest episode is already available for streaming from Sinclair stations’ websites.
During his recent opening monologue, Bolling claimed that “closing down cities and economies and wearing your tube socks around your face hasn't slowed the virus down.”
In fact, the World Health Organization says that targeted lockdowns can be effective in suppressing localized outbreaks and preventing health and hospital systems from becoming overwhelmed when they are combined with robust testing and active contact tracing. And health experts have long agreed with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that social distancing policies -- which include shutting down large events and closing down common gathering areas such as schools -- are the most effective way to intervene in the spread of the virus early enough to dramatically reduce the number of infections and deaths.
The CDC also recommends the use of face masks, saying they “may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.” They are especially effective when combined with social distancing and proper hygiene. As experts have explained, wearing cloth masks is better than not wearing any facial covering, which seems to be what Bolling is advocating for.
As for the Trump claim of immunity following his treatment for the coronavirus, which Bolling aired without criticism, that’s also misleading. Infectious disease experts told The Associated Press that Trump may well still be infectious to others as he appeared to have a severe case of COVID-19, and that immunity is not guaranteed and is temporary, at best. The CDC has also stated that people who seem to recover from the infection are not immune to reinfection. When the president wrote in a tweet that he was immune, Twitter added a warning label that it was misleading -- but Bolling did no such thing to inform his audience.
And Bolling has repeatedly brought up the lie that the coronavirus was altered in a Chinese lab, this time claiming that “it's damn near certain this virus has to have been altered in a Chinese lab.” Scientists have debunked this idea and stated that the features of the virus are found in nature.
Bolling’s Sinclair program is notorious for spreading coronavirus misinformation. In late July, he conducted an interview with conspiracy theorists from the false Plandemic video which spread vicious lies about White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci and dangerous misinformation about COVID-19. After criticism from Media Matters and other news outlets, Sinclair pulled that edition of America This Week after it aired on one of its stations.
At the very least, this latest misinformation-filled monologue should also not be aired on Sinclair’s huge network of local TV stations, as it risks exposing local news audiences across the country to clearly false claims that could compromise public health.