How right-wingers and Trump apologists could 'get people killed' with coronavirus disinformation: columnist
As the death toll from coronavirus continues to climb — passing 4,200 worldwide on Tuesday, according to John Hopkins University in Baltimore — many figures in the United States’ right-wing media believe that their job isn’t to provide accurate information but to defend President Donald Trump at every turn. And by doing so, Never Trump conservative Max Boot asserts in his Washington Post column, they are helping to make a bad situation even worse.
“President Trump has been widely and correctly excoriated for the way he is dealing with the novel coronavirus,” Boot notes. “By minimizing the danger, he heightens it. Even on Monday, Trump was comparing covid-19 to the ordinary flu — even though its mortality rate appears to be many times higher and its economic effect infinitely greater.”
Boot quickly adds, however, that “Trump could not spread disinformation all by himself.”
“A herd of right-wing pseudo-journalists has jumped the shark along with him,” Boot writes. “They are promulgating narratives so at odds with reality that they are likely to get people killed.”
Boot goes on to cite some examples, including familiar Trumpistas at Fox News and Fox Business.
“On Monday,” Boot notes, “Trish Regan was on Fox Business denouncing coronavirus concern as ‘yet another attempt to impeach the president.’ In her demented view, Trump’s opponents are deliberately inducing stock-market losses — presumably, Democrats don’t own 401(k)s — in an attempt to ‘to demonize and destroy the president.’ Naturally, Trump — Fox News viewer No. 1 — retweeted her diatribe.”
Boot is equally critical of Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who insisted on Monday that the president’s critics are trying to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax” and that they are “scaring people unnecessarily.”
“To a lot of viewers,” Boot asserts, “it will sound as if Hannity is calling the virus a hoax, even if that’s not what he intended.”
Boot also slams radio host Rush Limbaugh as “irresponsible” for claiming that reporting on coronavirus is a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection campaign. However, one right-wing media figure who Boot cites as an “outlier of sanity” on coronavirus is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. Boot points out that although Carlson is “often the most rabid host on Fox,” he hasn’t been downplaying the severity of coronavirus and has correctly warned his viewers, “This is real.”
Boot concludes his column by stressing that whenever right-wing media figures try to make coronavirus seem less dangerous than it is, they are putting their more gullible viewers or listeners in danger.
“The ‘conservative’ media have long shown their contempt for facts and science — for instance, by playing down the danger of climate change or Russian election attacks,” Boot warns. “Never has their contempt for the truth been more dangerous than it is today. To defeat coronavirus, we must first combat the mental afflictions — irrationality, conspiracy-mongering and Dear Leader-like devotion to Trump — spread by exposure to right-wing media.”