Fox News is downplaying the coronavirus even though its older audience is more vulnerable to the virus
Some of the most prominent right-wing media personalities are downplaying the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus and accusing Democrats of exaggerating the crisis to score political points. The Fox News hosts' comments echo the White House's talking points and the president accused Democrats and the media of intentionally "panicking" the stock market about the virus to undermine him. But Fox's message is particularly dangerous for its viewers, who skew older and are thus more vulnerable to the effects of the virus, which US health officials say is poised to spread across the US.
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Some of President Donald Trump's most vocal supporters in right-wing media are downplaying the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus and accusing Democrats of overstating the crisis to score political points. Sean Hannity, whose prime-time program is the most watched on Fox News, on Thursday argued that the virus sweeping the globe hasn't yet killed any Americans, and compared it to the seasonal flu, which took 61,000 lives in the US in 2017-2018. (The reported death rate from the novel virus in China is much higher than that of the flu). Hannity added that Democrats actually want the virus to spread as a way to undermine President Donald Trump. "Many on the left are all but rooting for coronavirus to wreak havoc in the United States," Hannity told his more than 3 million viewers on Thursday night. "It's clear, the left's psychosis, their rage, is now reaching new depths of depravity ... These people are not well. Let's be honest here, they don't have good intentions." Fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham echoed that argument, focusing her prime time shows this week on attacking Democrats and the media over their response to the virus. "Democrats and their media cronies have decided to weaponize fear and also weaponize suffering to improve their chances against Trump in November," Ingraham announced on Wednesday. While some of Fox's daytime shows are covering the facts of the coronavirus epidemic, "The Five," among other daytime programs, framed their coverage on Friday through Trump's attacks on the media and brought a medical correspondent on who called the World Health Organization "alarmist." Democrats have sharply condemned Trump's response to the virus, calling his request for $2.5 billion in funding inadequate and "anemic," and his administration's announcement that a potential virus may not be affordable for many Americans "absolutely disgusting."
This is how Fox News handles a growing public health crisis pic.twitter.com/FgY1J5u8W7 — Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) February 28, 2020
The Fox News hosts' comments echo the White House's talking points. Trump held a press briefing with government officials responsible for the coronavirus response on Wednesday night and downplayed the risk of the virus, insisting the US is "very, very ready for this, for anything." The president accused Democrats and the media of intentionally "panicking" the stock market, tweeting on Wednesday, "Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!" Trump has also argued that the coronavirus is only as threatening as the seasonal flu. The president also misleadingly claimed that the coronavirus will go away in April as temperatures rise.
Fox News' target audience is more vulnerable to the coronavirus Fox News' message is getting through to the network's audience, some of whom gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland this week. But Fox News' viewers are more vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus than the average American, as they skew older. The virus is significantly more deadly for those over 50 years old, and even more so for even older people, according to a study of Chinese coronavirus patients. The media age of Fox's audience was 65 in 2018. Like many of the CPAC attendees interviewed by Insider on Thursday and Friday, Dianne Kozack, 69, and her daughter Lara, 26, believed Trump had the coronavirus response under control and that mainstream news organizations had blown the threat out of proportion. "I believe what Rush Limbaugh says, that it's under control," Dianne Kozack said. "I think President Trump's on top of it and, so far, there's nothing to panic about." Limbaugh, the conservative talk-radio host, was criticized for telling listeners on Monday that "the coronavirus is the common cold." Rene Campbell, 57, said she doesn't "watch the media anymore," with the exception of Fox News, and news she finds on Facebook. "If you look at the big scheme of things, there's millions and millions of people in this world and I think right now in the United States there is one confirmed case," Campbell said. At the time Campbell spoke with Insider, there had been 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control. "Honestly, I'm not afraid of it," Campbell said. "I'm here, I don't have a mask on, I did buy masks because my son's freaking out. But I'm not. I don't see the need right now to panic."
As Vice President Mike Pence, the administration's new point person on novel coronavirus, riled up the crowd in the Potomac Ballroom on Thursday, several CPAC attendees told Insider they weren't especially panicked about the coronavirus. Some, like Melinda Kirlkand, a stay-at-home-mom from Michigan, "don't think that much about it." "Personally it's a media driven panic that they want out there," said Lynn Straughan, who had come from Florida to attend CPAC. "If you actually see what's happening and listen to the mainstream media, MSNBC or CNN, they paint a dramatically different picture. One that is designed to put people into a certain type of panic." Straughan and her friends said they were protecting themselves as they normally would to combat the flu: washing their hands, wiping down airplane seats, and not touching their faces. Others insisted they were not worried, but acknowledged that they were currently attending a bustling and tightly-packed conference where many attendees had passed through airports around the country to attend. An aspiring right-wing podcaster who gave his name as Grizzly Joe said he was "not worried about it", but still bought "some masks a couple weeks ago in case it does get a little crazy." "I'm not talking about the crappy paper masks, I'm talking about nice real masks, nice real respirators," he told Insider.SEE ALSO: Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Laura Ingraham are denying the coronavirus risk in an attempt to protect Trump Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
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Trump and his allies have politicized wearing masks, but the vast majority of Americans say they cover their faces to prevent the spread of COVID-19
President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or...President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or face-coverings, a practice that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. In over half a dozen recent national surveys, however, overwhelmingly majorities of Americans, Republicans, and those who support Trump, say they always or regularly wear masks in public. Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public, going against the advice of his own administration. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, on Wednesday strongly urged Americans to wear masks as a public health measure and as a sign of respect. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or face-coverings, a practice that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but polling has repeatedly shown that most Americans — including Republicans and Trump's supporters — are in favor of the practice. Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly report regularly wearing masks: An exhaustive nationwide survey of over 22,000 Americans in all 50 states conducted from April 17-26 by a team of researchers from Harvard, Northeastern, and Rutgers found that 75% of Americans and 70% of Republicans said they somewhat closely or very closely follow government guidelines to wear masks outside their homes. In a national survey of over 2,220 Americans conducted April 14-21 by political scientists Gabriel Sanchez and Edward Vargas with the online polling firm Lucid, 73% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans said they had worn a mask or face-covering in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A Fox News national poll of 1,200 registered voters conducted from May 17-20 found that 72% of all Americans, 60% of Republicans, and 61% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 said they wear masks in public all or most of the time. A Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape survey of 4,576 registered voters conducted May 7-14 found that 84% of all Americans and 81% of Republicans say they have worn a mask in public in response to the coronavirus crisis. A Politico/Morning Consult national tracking poll of 1,986 registered voters conducted May 22-26 found that 81% of all Americans and 71% of those who say they strongly approve of Trump's job performance said they are very or somewhat likely to wear a mask in public spaces. In a CBS News and YouGov poll of 2,000 Americans conducted May 11-13, 69% of Americans said they wear a mask or face covering all or most of the time they leave their homes. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted May 14-16 found that 69% of Americans and 66% of Republicans say they wear a mask in public places around other people, like in grocery stores, all or most of the time. The same poll also found that 83% of Americans and 76% of Republicans say they believe wearing a mask in public is not a sign of weakness. Sixty-nine percent of Americans and 58% of Republicans said they believe wearing a mask is a sign of respectfulness. Trump and some of his allies have implied that wearing a mask in a sign of weakness Though members of the US public say they regularly cover their faces, the rhetoric emanating from the president and some of his allies on this topic makes the issue seem far more divided along political lines than it is in reality. Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public, going against the advice of his own administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges the US public to cover their mouth and nose "with a cloth face cover when around others." "Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities," the CDC's website states. But Trump, who is extremely image-conscious, seemingly views mask-wearing as a sign of weakness. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that Trump is worried that wearing a mask in public would hurt his re-election chances. And in a May 21 visit to a Ford Motors plant in Michigan, Trumponly wore a mask in a private tour of the factory with a few of the company's executives, but took it off when being photographed and taking questions from the press. In recent days, Trump has mocked his 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for wearing a mask in public on Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Trump mocked Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason for wearing a mask during a press conference in the Rose Garden, accusing the reporter of attempting to be "politically correct" by covering his face. "You want to be politically correct" -- Trump asks @jeffmason1 to take his mask off then disses him when he refuses to do so pic.twitter.com/ALhIY9n5e2 — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 26, 2020 And Trump on Thursday shared a tweet from the right-wing publication The Federalist which suggested masks are not about public health but "social control" and that they represent "silence, slavery, and social death." Meanwhile, Fox News' Laura Ingraham, who often defends the Trump administration on her show, has repeatedly sought to sow doubt about the efficacy of masks, painting the call for people to cover their faces as a media plot designed to spread fear. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and staunch Trump supporter, on Wednesday said he'll only wear a mask if it features an image of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface. Not all of Trump's allies are pushing against mask-wearing, however, as Fox News' Sean Hannity recently chastised people in Missouri for partying without social distancing or masks over Memorial Day weekend. Responding to footage of the partygoers in the Midwestern state that was widely shared on social media, Hannity said, "There's no mask-wearing here that I see ... I see no social distancing. But if they get the virus and they're in contact with older, more vulnerable Americans, that could be a disaster for others ... If you can't social distance, please wear the mask for your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. My humble advice." Hannity on Lake of The Ozarks Video: There’s no mask wearing here that I see... I see no social distancing. But if they get the virus and they’re in contact with older more vulnerable Americans, that could be a disaster... Please wear the mask for your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa pic.twitter.com/C8UGhTd7aH — Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) May 27, 2020 Medical experts say wearing a face covering drastically reduces the risk of transmission Public health experts have emphasized the importance of wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is easily transmitted by asymptomatic carriers who aren't aware they have the disease. The CDC estimates that as many as 35% of those infected show no symptoms. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, on Wednesday strongly urged Americans to wear masks for public health purposes and as a sign of respect. "I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing," Fauci said during a CNN interview. Though experts are still debating how effective masks are in mitigating the spread of the virus, research has shown that it can drastically reduce infections. Researchers in Hong Kong, for example, recently conducted experiments that found that the transmission rate of coronavirus via respiratory droplets or airborne particles dropped by roughly 75% when masks were used. "The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge," Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist at Hong Kong University, said regarding the study's findings. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How waste is dealt with on the world's largest cruise ship
Trump says he's 'looking for a new outlet' after Fox News anchor expressed shock at the president's announcement that he takes hydroxychloroquine
President Donald Trump said in a Monday tweet that he is "looking for a new outlet"...President Donald Trump said in a Monday tweet that he is "looking for a new outlet" after a Fox News host slammed his announcement that he's taking hydroxychloroquine was and advised viewers not to use it. On Monday, Trump said he's been taking the drug to prevent coronavirus infection; there is no evidence that the drug works to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. Fox News host Neil Cavuto said, "I cannot stress this enough, this will kill you." Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing editor of Fox News' health team called the announcement "highly irresponsible." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump lashed out at Fox News after host Neil Cavuto expressed shock at Trump's announcement that he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a prevention for the coronavirus. The drug has not been proven as an effective treatment for the virus, and the Federal Drug Administration recently warned that there was a "risk of heart rhythm problems" and shouldn't be taken outside of a clinical or hospital setting. Trump tweeted on Monday night that Fox News is not the same. "We miss the great Roger Ailes. You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!" Trump wrote. .@FoxNews is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes. You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet! https://t.co/jXxsF0flUM — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020 "I take it," Trump told reporters of his use of the drug. "I would've told you that three to four days ago, but we never had a chance because you never asked me the question." On Fox News, Cavuto was surprised by the president's touting of the drug and warned viewers against using the drug. He mentioned a recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs and academic researchers, which said that hydroxychloroquine had no benefit on coronavirus patients and was also linked to higher death rates for VA patients hospitalized with the disease, Business Insider previously reported. Trump, however, suggested that the study was conducted "with people that aren't big Trump fans." Cavuto, however, said the study was not political. "It was a test on patients there, and those who took it in a vulnerable population, including those with respiratory or other conditions, they died," Cavuto said. "I want to stress again: They died. If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst-case scenario you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough: This will kill you." Additionally, Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing editor of Fox News' health news, said on Fox News that Trump's announcement was "highly irresponsible." "I would like the White House physician to come out tomorrow and explain to me what has changed in a week and a half or two weeks for the president to take this medication when all the data that has been coming out very repetitively has shown that there's really not a major benefit," Alvarez said. Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing editor of Fox News' health news, says that it is "highly irresponsible" for Trump to claim that he's now taking hydroxychloroquine.He also wants the White House physician to explain what's changed since studies have shown no benefits. pic.twitter.com/QAxYVTM1kG — Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) May 18, 2020 In a memo, the White House physician said he discussed the benefits and health risks of hydroxychloroquine with Trump, and they "concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks." The Food and Drug Administration has allowed for the emergency use of the drug for COVID-19 patients in a hospital setting, but growing studies show that the drug may not be effective. Additionally, the FDA has warned against using hydroxychloroquine, "outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems." Fox News did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on Friday rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel...Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on Friday rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab. Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious disease, said the available evidence on the origins of the virus is "totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human." Fox News and Republican allies of President Donald Trump have been pushing the lab narrative hard in recent days, despite a lack of hard evidence to back it up. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious disease, on Friday, rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus escaped a Chinese lab. "A group of highly-qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences in bats as they evolve. The mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human," Fauci said at the daily White House press briefing in response to a question from a reporter on the theory, which has been pushed by President Donald Trump's allies in recent days. The precise origins of the novel coronavirus, which is officially known as SARS-CoV-2 and causes the disease COVID-19, remain somewhat of a mystery. But, as Fauci underscored in his remarks on Friday, studies of the virus' genome have strongly indicated that it was transmitted from an animal to a human. "We do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible," an analysis published in Nature Medicine in mid-March said. The study, led by computational biologist Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in California, compared COVID-19 to the six other coronaviruses known to infect humans. The analysis explicitly states that the evidence shows SARS-CoV-2 "is not a purposefully manipulated virus." But as research on the origins of the novel coronavirus continues, some in the Trump administration, including the president, are seemingly still open to the possibility it escaped from a Chinese lab. "More and more, we're hearing the story, and we'll see," Trump said on Thursday. Trump suggests there's merit to a Fox News story about the novel coronavirus originating in a lab in China pic.twitter.com/8HkVeiJQns — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 15, 2020 On Friday, when asked "how active" the investigation was into whether the virus escaped a lab in Wuhan, China, Trump said: "We are looking at it. A lot of people are looking at it. It seems to make sense ... We are going to find out." "A lot of strange things are happening ... We're going to find out," Trump added. But the US intelligence community has looked into the theory for months and hasn't found hard evidence to back it up, according to a report from Politico, which cited multiple sources familiar with the matter. An administration official told Politico, "There's no consensus." Trump on Wuhan lab investigation:“We’re looking at it, a lot of people are looking at it. It seems to make sense. … There is a lot of investigation going on and we’re going to find out." pic.twitter.com/nw6KDIpcl1 — JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) April 17, 2020 Fox News has been leading the charge on the Chinese lab conspiracy theory Meanwhile, Fox News, the president's preferred TV network, has been pushing the lab narrative hard over the past week. "Sources believe coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan lab as part of China's efforts to compete with US," a report published on Wednesday and co-authored by Fox News anchor Bret Baier said. Along these lines, Trump's advisers and congressional allies have been hammering China in recent days, excoriating the Chinese government over its lack of transparency in relation to coronavirus. GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Wednesday told Sean Hannity of Fox News that China "must be made to pay the price" if it's determined the virus came out of a Wuhan lab. Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday told Fox News: "We really need the Chinese Government to open up. They say they want to cooperate. One of the best ways they could find to cooperate would be to let the world in, to let the world's scientists know exactly how this came to be, exactly how this virus began to spread." Trump denies the US has the most coronavirus deaths as his administration defends the country's testing capacity Trump on Friday also expressed skepticism over the Chinese government's official death toll from the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China. Based on the available data, the US is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with the highest number of reported cases and confirmed deaths. But Trump dismissed those numbers. "We don't have the most in the world deaths. The most in the world has to be China. It is a massive country...they must have the most," Trump said during Friday's press briefing. As of Friday evening, there were nearly 700,000 reported cases of coronavirus in the US, and over 36,000 confirmed deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Comparatively, the data said China has seen nearly 84,000 cases and over 4,600 deaths. Beyond Trump, there's been widespread skepticism across the international community over China's official numbers, but the Chinese government has rejected allegations of a coverup. Amid the increased focus on China, the Trump administration continues to face strong criticism from Democratic lawmakers and public health experts over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump spent weeks downplaying the threat of the virus on top of early stumbles at the federal level that left the US behind much of the world on testing for the virus. Some Democrats and former US officials have accused Trump of using China, and more recently the World Health Organization (WHO), as a scapegoat to deflect from his own failures in handling coronavirus. The president earlier this week announced a plan to cut funding to the WHO, criticizing the agency for praising China's transparency in the early days of the outbreak. But Trump was also praising China in this regard around the same time and continued to applaud its handling of the crisis well into February as the virus was spreading in the US. China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020 Trump has pushed back hard on any criticism of his response and berated reporters who've questioned him about the testing shortages in the US. Vice President Mike Pence and other officials on the coronavirus task force on Friday said that the capacity of testing for coronavirus in the US has increased to a point where governors can initiate the first of three phases that are part of the administration's guidelines on easing social distancing and reopening the economy. But earlier on Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphasized that his state, which has been hit the hardest by the novel coronavirus, still needs help from the federal government with testing. VP Pence on coronavirus testing and reopening the U.S. economy: “Today, we have a sufficient amount of testing to meet the requirements of a Phase 1 reopening, if state governors should choose to do that” pic.twitter.com/AnX24wi8hc — QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) April 17, 2020 On Monday, Trump falsely claimed he had "total" authority to force governors to end coronavirus restrictions in order to restart the economy, but he backtracked by Thursday and said he would leave such decisions up to the states. By Friday, however, Trump was on Twitter encouraging residents of Virginia and Michigan to "liberate" their states, which came as some states have seen protests against stay-at-home orders. When asked about this at Friday's press briefing, Trump said he did not think his tweets were at odds with the administration's measured guidance for easing restrictions that leaves the timeline up to governors. 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