COVID Misinformation by Fox News Making Pandemic Deadlier

Image suggests President Trump's obsession with Fox News.
Source: Media Matters for America

The Republican death cult seems to have given up trying to slay the beast.

The issue before us is no longer the Trump administration’s mishandling of the cornonavirus pandemic…downplaying it, calling it a “hoax,” claiming it will disappear…importantly, denying the American people the necessary information so they could protect themselves and their families as the virus spread throughout the population.

That bill will be settled up on election day.

No, the issue before us now is that the White House has apparently given up on slaying the deadly virus. Instead, Trump is handing the keys to a crank doctor and Fox News host whose plan is to intentionally infect the majority of the population to achieve what is called “herd immunity”…leading to untold unnecessary deaths.

Herd Immunity

Herd immunity has its roots in vaccinology: that a population can become immune to a disease or virus through mass vaccination. The concept has been twisted beyond recognition by right wing media to promote an entirely new definition: that widespread immunity can be achieved through mass infection. It is based on the unproven hypothesis that people who survive the virus are immune to further infection.

Proponents seem to be contending: Mask-wearing and social distancing are a drag. We lack the patience and the ability (plus faith in science) to see this thing through. Let’s open up the economy and pretend everything is back to normal. And hope for the best.

The ‘Great Barrington Declaration’

Trump and his supporters (advisers) among Fox News personalities have signaled support for an online movement called the Great Barrington Declaration. The document calls for the type of herd immunity described above: Letting COVID run rampant through the American population. It urges “those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at higher risk.”

Authors of the Declaration claim to have the signatures of thousands of “medical practitioners,” including “Dr. Johnny Bananas,” “Dr. Person Fakename” among dozens of other dubious entries. The signatures were pulled from the website when the fake names became known.

Image of Dr. Scott Atlas, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force.
Image of Scott Atlas, radiologist. Source: YouTube
Dr. Scott Atlas

It is the hallmark of the Trump administration to fill its ranks with painfully unqualified people snatched from the Green Rooms of Fox News. Scott Atlas is one such person. Atlas is a radiologist (a doctor who is diagnoses injuries and diseases with medical imaging machines like X-Rays and MRIs; not even close to epidemiology) who caught Trump’s attention when he advocated herd immunity on a Fox News program.

Trump reportedly spends hours each day watching Fox News. It must make his heart sing to watch talking heads continually espouse a worldview that matches his own rhetorical indulgences (the amoral Trump actually has no worldview). One day last summer, Trump reportedly watched a man with a medical degree assert that COVID was not that dangerous and that the government should reopen the economy immediately. This was exactly what Trump wanted to hear, and so Dr. Scott Atlas was added to the coronavirus task force last August.

It gets worse. Backed by presidential authority, Atlas has consolidated his power within the task force, with the implication that so-called herd immunity had become the official government position on the pandemic. Further, Atlas has pushed a baseless theory that the US is close to herd immunity, which reportedly dismayed task force officials.

This is what happens when a crucial government function is carried out by Fox News talking points.

Dr. Fauci mentioned a super-spreader event in the White House Rose Garden. Here are the results. Source: Fox News

One person not happy about Atlas’s elevation on the coronavirus task force is its (former?) head, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nations premier epidemiologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci has been walking a delicate tight rope between performing his duties and pleasing his boss, President Trump. Fauci has been vilified for months by Fox News personalities like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham for simply advocating mask wearing and social distancing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci

Trump couldn’t have been too happy when Dr. Fauci was interviewed on 60 Minutes and called the White House Rose Garden event introducing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett a “super-spreader event.” Few masks were worn; people were shoulder-to-shoulder. Over a dozen attendees tested positive for COVID (see graphic above).

Trump retaliated in a call to campaign staffers that reporters were allowed to listen in on by complaining, “People are tired of listening to Fauci and all these idiots. Every time he goes on television there’s a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.”

Governance by Fox News

Dr. Fauci has called the Great Barrington Declaration “ridiculous” and had this to say about herd immunity:

If you talk to anybody who has any experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases, they will tell you that it is risky and you’ll wind up with more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and death. So I think we have to look at this square in the eye and say it’s nonsense.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

As Trump and Fox News continue to gamble with people’s lives, the results are as plain as day: Over 200,000 Americans are dead, the economy is in shambles and the virus is still out of control.

We can only hope for a changing of the guard.

Editor’s Note: The author is grateful to Media Matters for America for it superb coverage of this issue. Next week: Right wing spin of a mask-wearing study. –AG

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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