'It is everywhere already': Fox News hosts amp up the pressure on Trump to give up on coronavirus lockdowns and reopen the economy
A slew of Fox News opinion hosts and anchors are pushing back on public health experts and urging President Donald Trump to abandon its social distancing policies and reopen the economy. Primetime host Tucker Carlson attacked "the public health establishment," which he argued "failed us badly" by recommending stay-home orders that are hurting the economy. Fox commentator Melissa Francis argued on Friday that the virus is "everywhere already" in New York and she's "losing faith" in social distancing policies as the economy shrinks. On "Fox and Friends," one of the president's favorite Fox New programs, co-host Brian Kilmeade called the economic damage from the virus "a self-inflicted wound." The Fox News pundits are ignoring widespread consensus among public health experts and government officials that the only way to save thousands, if not millions, of American lives is to stay home. The US has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world: more than 260,000, or about one-quarter of global cases.
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A slew of Fox News opinion hosts and anchors are pushing back on public health experts, including the White House coronavirus task force, and urging President Donald Trump to abandon its social distancing policies and reopen the economy. Primetime host Tucker Carlson argued on his Thursday night program that "one of the main lessons of this crisis is that the public health establishment failed us badly" by recommending stay-home orders and other social distancing policies that are hurting the economy. "What would've happened, for example, if we'd adopted a more conventional response to this epidemic?" Carlson said. "What if we'd asked the elderly and immunocompromised and anyone else facing statistically higher rates of risk to stay inside, cloistered away? And then at the same time allow the rest of the population to use informed common sense and continue to work?" He went on, "What if we'd done that a month ago? Would the death rate today be much higher than it is now? Maybe, maybe not. We don't know. But it's clearly a conversation we should've had before we locked the entire country down and put 10 million people out of work. But we didn't have that conversation. Instead, we outsourced the decision to public health officials." Carlson and other Fox News pundits are ignoring widespread consensus among infectious disease and public health experts that the only way to slow the spread of the virus and prevent thousands, if not millions, of deaths is to keep people at home until modeling shows it's safe to reopen businesses, schools, and public places. Fox News commentator Melissa Francis argued on Friday that the virus is "everywhere already" in New York and she's "losing faith" in the stay-home orders states have implemented across the country as the economy implodes. She suggested the economic fallout from the lockdown is scarier than the deadly virus itself. "It does seem like it's spread all over New York, so at this point I don't know about the efficacy of staying inside indefinitely," Francis said on Fox's "Outnumbered." "Who doesn't know 10, 12 people who have it at this point, personally? It has run rampant all over this city at least." Fox News host Harris Faulkner, who Trump recently called "one of my favorite people," pushed back gently on Francis and interrupted to ask a doctor on the panel to give her perspective. The doctor, Janette Nesheiwat, argued "you can't put a price tag on lives."
Some Fox figures are ramping up pressure to reduce the stay at home restrictionsFrancis: It is everywhere already, at this point we're destroying our economy, that part is soooo scary to me. I don't know about this continued stay inside, I'm losing faith in it. pic.twitter.com/be9eWIKwLx — Lis Power (@LisPower1) April 3, 2020
On "Fox and Friends," one of the president's favorite Fox programs, co-host Brian Kilmeade argued on Friday that the economic damage from the virus is avoidable. "This is a self-inflicted wound, it's a slow-motion car wreck that we brought on ourselves," Kilmeade said. "We should talk about how many people are working ... I'd rather find out the 20% that are still on their jobs ... we're an anomaly now."
On stay at home orders, Brian Kilmeade says that "we should reverse" the "slow motion car wreck that we brought on ourselves" in destroying the economy. He also says "we should talk about how many people are working ... I'd rather find out the 20% that are still on their jobs." pic.twitter.com/kKcxpttyRb — Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) April 3, 2020
At least 90% of the country — 297 million Americans — are affected by some kind of stay-at-home order. State governments have asked residents to shelter in place and go out only for essential services, with the goal of encouraging social distancing, and thereby reducing the spread of the coronavirus and "flattening the curve" so healthcare systems aren't overwhelmed. But a handful of governors have so far refused to issue statewide stay home orders in their states. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, is frustrated with the lack of a federal mandate and on Thursday said "I don't understand why" the president hasn't issued a nation-wide stay home order. Many of Fox News' most high-profile hosts and pundits spent weeks in February and March aggressively downplaying the threat posed by the virus and accusing Democrats and the media of hyping the global health crisis to hurt Trump. Shortly after the Trump administration finally began cracking down on the virus as it began its rapid spread throughout the country last month, several Fox News hosts began making the case that the economic fallout from widespread lockdowns will be a greater price to pay than the additional lives that would be lost if the economy reopens. "Our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces whipping up fear over this virus — they can afford an indefinite shutdown. Working Americans can't, they'll be crushed by it," host Steve Hilton, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron, said on March 23. "You know that famous phrase, 'the cure is worse than the disease?' That is exactly the territory we're hurtling towards." Just a few hours later, Trump tweeted, "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF." Since then, many of the president's allies have argued that older Americans and others more vulnerable to the disease should sacrifice themselves for the good of the economy. During his Thursday night program, Carlson defended Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who argued that "lots of grandparents" were willing to die of COVID-19 if it meant the economy could get back up and running more quickly. Aylin Woodward and Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this report. SEE ALSO: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says Detroit will 'lose a lot of people' as Michigan's healthcare system is 'pushed to the brink' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
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Trump is forcing the CDC to ease school reopening guidelines despite experts' warnings that kids will be super-spreaders
The Trump administration is waging an aggressive campaign to reopen America's schools and the president has...The Trump administration is waging an aggressive campaign to reopen America's schools and the president has pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue new, less restrictive guidelines. Public health experts say it is dangerous for schools to reopen while the virus is continuing to spread within communities at high levels. The US reported 60,000 new cases on Tuesday, the highest US single day total so far in the pandemic. While children are at a lower risk of suffering serious health consequences from Covid-19, experts warn they could act as asymptomatic super-spreaders. "The highest risks are in settings with large groups of people, in enclosed spaces, for prolonged periods, in close proximity, with a lot of vocalizing. Much like a classroom, school bus, or cafeteria," one public health expert tweeted. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump publicly defied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over its guidelines for reopening the country's schools as the coronavirus surges across the country. "I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools," Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. "While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!" The president also threatened to "cut off funding" for school districts that don't swiftly reopen. Trump's tweet came after CDC Director Robert Redfield insisted on Tuesday that the agency's guidelines aren't mandatory and shouldn't prevent any schools from reopening. "Nothing would cause me greater sadness than to see any school district or school use our guidance as a reason not to reopen," Redfield said during a Tuesday event at the White House. Tuesday was the highest single day for new coronavirus cases in the US, with 60,000 reported. After the president's tweets on Wednesday, Redfield said the CDC is "prepared to work with each school, each jurisdiction to help them use the different strategies that we proposed that help do this safely so they come up with the optimal strategy for those schools." Later, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the CDC wil issue new guidance next week for school reopenings amid the presidential backlash. "As the president said today, we just don't want the guidance to be too tough," Pence said during a Wednesday press briefing. "That's the reason why next week, the C.D.C. is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward." Pence dodged questions about what specific public health measures schools will need to take to mitigate the spread of the virus. "We know each school system has unique capabilities, different facilities, and what parents around the country should know is that we are here to help," Pence said. "We are here to work with their governors, with their local education officials, to get our kids back to school." 'Nobody should hide behind CDC's guidance' The CDC's current school reopening guidelines include creating more space between students' desks, setting up barriers between sinks in bathrooms, and staggering class schedules, among other suggestions. Many education officials say they don't have the necessary resources or are simply unable to reopen fully under these guidelines. Later on Wednesday, White House officials said the president will roll out his own school reopening recommendations that are less restrictive than the CDC's guidelines, NBC News reported. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also insisted this week that the federal government would not stand in the way of any school reopenings. "Our CDC guidance is guidance," Azar said. "When it comes to reopening our schools, nobody should hide behind CDC's guidance as a way to not reopen schools. Our guidance is to enable and empower the reopening of schools and physical attendance by our kids." Many public health experts condemned the president's efforts to undermine the CDC's recommendations. "This is one of the most egregious cases of political interference with science-based public health protections," Dr. Ali Nouri, president of the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted Wednesday following the White House's announcement that the CDC will issue new guidelines. Trump is effectively politicizing the reopening of schools, arguing that Democrats and others are opposed to reopening the nation's schools because it benefits them politically to keep them closed; Trump did not explain why they would benefit from this. Democrats and health experts reject that argument. "They think it's going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed. No way," he said Tuesday. "So we're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools." Some states and localities have already indicated that they won't be fully operational in the fall. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that the city's schools will not be fully reopened in September, and instead bring students into classrooms between one and three days a week. Some Democratic governors have vocally rejected the president's efforts to force states to do as he says. "School reopenings are a state decision. Period," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his Wednesday press conference. "The president does not have the authority to open schools." Cuomo added, "Nobody wants the schools open more than I do," but said he'll only move forward with reopenings if it's safe to do so. 'Near-ideal super spreading conditions' The discussion about schools reopening comes as the US is seeing dramatic surges in infections across the country. The country has broken its record for most new infections in a single day six times in the last 13 days. While the president has repeatedly celebrated the relatively low death rate, scientists and health experts warn the death rate may begin to rise again as the surge remains uncontrolled. States across the Sun Belt and in the West, many of which reopened their economies in violation of the CDC's guidelines, are being particularly hard hit. Public health experts say successfully suppressing the spread of the virus is a prerequisite for safely reopening schools in the fall. They worry that the Trump administration is approaching school reopenings in the same way it pressured states to reopen their economies this spring. Jeremy Konyndyk, the former director for foreign disaster assistance at USAID who led the Ebola response in West Africa under the Obama administration, argued the Trump administration is pushing ahead with school reopenings without having the spread contained and the proper mitigation measures in place. "There's no silver bullet fix for our economy or or schools. We have to do the hard slog of containing the virus before we can start getting back to a new economic and educational normal," Konyndyk wrote in a series of tweets on Wednesday. "The longer we treat those as distinct priorities, the longer we're screwed." He argued that while relatively little is known about how the coronavirus impacts children, schools "present near-ideal super spreading conditions" that could easily foster new, devastating outbreaks all over the country. "The highest risks are in settings with large groups of people, in enclosed spaces, for prolonged periods, in close proximity, with a lot of vocalizing. Much like a classroom, schoolbus, or cafeteria," Konyndyk tweeted. "When there is a lot of ongoing local transmission, inadequate and slow testing, and insufficient tracing, it's not a manageable risk. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, argued that the question isn't whether states can reopen their schools, but whether they can prevent new spikes and keep schools open for any sustained period of time. 1. We actually DO want public health experts to shape how we open schools2. Ignoring CDC has been a pretty bad strategy so far3. Question isn't can we open schools. Sure, we can open schoolsQuestion is: can we keep schools open?If we ignore science, the short answer is no https://t.co/eBXqPEGgE0 — Ashish "The pandemic is still with us" Jha (@ashishkjha) July 8, 2020 Evidence shows that children under 12 years old are at relatively low risk of serious health consequences from contracting the coronavirus, however they may still pass the virus on to older children and adults. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's pandemic response coordinator, noted during Wednesday's briefing that the age group that's undergone the least amount of testing is children under 10 years old. She also noted that children have been very well protected over the last several months, given school closures and stay-home orders, making it harder to understand how the virus impacts them. Birx added that multi-generational homes will be most at-risk once children go back to school and face potential exposure to the virus, as kids could spread Covid-19 to their more vulnerable family members. Testing will be key to preventing and containing outbreaks associated with schools, but most states don't yet have that testing in place. SEE ALSO: Mike Pence pushed governors to reopen their schools and cited an economic analysis showing the country would take a $50 billion hit if schools stay closed Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet
Tucker Carlson's rise to the king of cable news aligns with growing chatter he could run...Tucker Carlson's rise to the king of cable news aligns with growing chatter he could run for president in 2024. Republican donors in New York last month began talking up the possibility of recruiting Carlson to make a White House run, according to a source familiar with the talks. "He's taking a moment when the GOP is lacking vision or any sort of moral clarity — and he's providing it," the conservative activist Jon Schweppe said. "Naturally, his following is growing. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. I hope the president is watching." As Carlson spent the past month deriding Black Lives Matter protesters as an effort to overthrow the federal government, his ratings soared. And Republican operatives have taken notice. "Tucker has more impact than anybody, including Hannity," a Republican familiar with the White House and Carlson said. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Tucker Carlson has unequivocally ditched the bow tie. Not the literal one — he lost that years ago — but the figurative smarmy one slapped on his career by the cable-TV funnyman Jon Stewart. In the thick of the 2004 race for the White House, Stewart appeared as a guest on Carlson's CNN's show, "Crossfire." The Comedy Central star ripped Carlson and cohost Democrat Paul Begala for their partisan sniping and pleaded with them to "stop hurting America." He singled out Carlson as being disingenuous, and went after his trademark wardrobe attire to make the point. Carlson responded by calling Stewart a "butt boy" for John Kerry. It was the moment that defined Carlson for a generation, then a 35-year-old shining star among Washington and New York's conservative intelligentsia. It ultimately set him on a path a decade later when he became the king of cable news during the era of Donald Trump, riding a wave of racial anger and a historic global pandemic to blockbuster ratings. It's the new, more serious Carlson, freed of the bow tie and smarm, who has captured the eyes of Manhattan donors, Insider has learned. And now conservatives across the country — ahem — are saying that maybe the Fox News megastar ought to be running for president himself in 2024 once Trump is out of the picture. They have a point. Look across the field of openly ambitious politicians and it's littered with people in search of "moments." The 2016 campaign amounted to a perpetual stream of them, from Trump's early-morning phone calls to his favorite TV pundits, to his late-night rallies and constant tweeting. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris created her own moment in 2017 by grilling then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. More recently, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, someone widely viewed as a likely 2024 GOP candidate, grabbed the ultimate moment on the right when his op-ed calling for military action against rioters and other "miscreants" led to the resignation of The New York Times' opinion-page editor. Every "moment" has one thing in common: grabbing the attention of cable news shows. But Carlson doesn't need to create any moments. He is the moment, live at 8 p.m. day in and day out. "What we are seeing now is Tucker at his absolute best," said Jon Schweppe, a policy director for the conservative group American Principles Project and diehard Carlson fan. "He used to employ the typical prime-time cable-news tactics — mocking left-wing politicians for their gaffes or journalists for their bias. That was entertainment, and he was good at it. "But something changed with Tucker when the country began to suffer after COVID-19 hit," Schweppe said. "His show is no longer entertainment. These are sermons. He's taking a moment when the GOP is lacking vision or any sort of moral clarity — and he's providing it. Naturally, his following is growing. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. I hope the president is watching." Carlson declined several requests for interviews for this story, and a Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment for this story. Carlson 2024? Tucker 2024 is itself a media creation. He's a guy who has made his name in journalism, writing print and saying things on television, the son of the Ronald Reagan-appointed director of the Voice of America and longtime friend of the one and only Roger Stone, the GOP provocateur and felon who probably had more to do with nudging Trump's political ambitions into reality than anyone else. Anyone watching Carlson now can see he's clearly using his platform speaking to millions of people to seize his conservative Howard Beale "mad as hell" moment. What's remarkable is that it is happening as the Trump White House he once championed looks to be in its own 2020 death spiral and the nation writhes in an economic free fall spurred by a pandemic. Whether Carlson himself has his own White House ambitions, he isn't saying. Last July he did joke he would be "insane" to run for president, but then posited that, if he did, a possible winning platform for a Republican would be talking about a social issue, like the challenges of raising kids in the current US economic climate. Predictably, the idea of a pundit president has the pundits pontificating. Last fall, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo suggested a Carlson presidency was not only possible but would be infinitely more effective than Trump's tumultuous term. Writing about a hypothetical future that has Carlson as the country's chief executive, Manjoo envisions a nightmare scenario "where Trump was a chaotic, undisciplined narcissist, the Carlson who wins in 2024 is a canny political strategist who makes good on Trump's forgotten promise to embrace anti-corporate economic policies." From the far right, longtime activist Michelle Malkin relishes the concept. "I wish Tucker Carlson were president!" she tweeted last June. Over on Facebook, the "Draft Tucker Carlson for President 2024" page regularly posts highlights from Carlson's show, including his early warnings from January about the coronavirus. Even The Washington Post has gotten in on the action. Its early 2024 GOP rankings, published two weeks after Insider did its own version, had Carlson registering in the "also receiving votes" category, like the smattering of college-football hopefuls who haven't quite cracked the AP preseason top 25 but still merit mentions as national championship contenders. That chatter, plus Carlson's regularly televised performances, have piqued the interest of GOP strategists and the party's moneyed class. His decision to formally cut ties with The Daily Caller, the conservative news outlet he started a decade ago, struck operatives interviewed for this story as another sign he could be positioning himself for a run. A small group of New York donors also began talking at the start of June about running him for president in 2024, according to one source familiar with the discussions. Grabbing the bully pulpit and attacking potential 2024 rivals Carlson's ascension as someone who should at least be in the conversation for the next presidential cycle stems in no small part from what he says on his TV show. Veteran operatives watching the nascent 2024 Republican field have listened closely as the prime-time Fox host has trained his fire not only on the Democrats most closely aligned with Black Lives Matter protesters but also on the Republicans he could run against in 2024. When Carlson launched into his month-long campaign against the BLM protesters and rioters, he opened by blasting Republicans for their inaction, including former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who's widely expected to run in 2024. "Someone in America needed to tell the truth to the country. Instead, almost all of our so-called conservative leaders joined the left's chorus," Carlson said. "No one jumped in more forcefully, or seemed angrier at America, than former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley." After Haley tweeted that George Floyd's death should be felt as "painful" for every American, Carlson said, "What Nikki Haley does best is moral blackmail." On his show earlier this week, Carlson sounded like the ultimate political outsider wooing voters from across the right to abandon the GOP hacks who've led them astray. "Middle-class families have no national spokesman. They have no lobby in Washington. Republicans pretend to be their champion — you know by now they are not," Carlson said Tuesday night. "Instead of improving the lives of their voters, the party feeds them a steady stream of mindless symbolic victories, partisan junk food to make them feel full even as they waste away." Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, the liberal watchdog group that tracks cable news voluminously, said he noticed the shift in Carlson's monologues a few months ago. There's more "urgency" in the Fox host's message, with less of the breathless hyperbole that marks other cable shows. That got him wondering if Carlson is indeed laying the groundwork for a White House run too. "I am more afraid of him than most others because he can make the very worst things palatable," Carusone said. "Trump would say 'Black people are being racist to white people,' whereas Tucker would say 'We need to adhere to equal justice under the law.'" Carlson's big gamble, Carusone said, is betting there will be a white backlash in America against the Black Lives Matter protests. That could reinvigorate a white nationalist populist base for him in 2024 similar to what carried Trump through the wide-open field of Republicans at the start of the 2016 contests. Practically speaking, Carlson has to keep threading the needle for at least four more months. Openly running for president now would look terrible and taint his image as a fearless nationalist outsider, Carusone said. But the idea becomes much more acceptable after the 2020 election results are in and the world knows whether Trump and his unique brand of presidential governing is going to be around for four more years. Carlson himself has not seriously broached the topic, according to several sources. There are practical reasons for that. Even thinking about it aloud could derail his cable stardom a second time. Fox News has famously spiked talent for working with Trump, not to mention after its paid pundits launched bids for president or even considered bids, including when Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich considered their own 2012 White House runs. 'Tucker has more impact than anybody, including Hannity' "They're coming for you," Carlson said to kick off his show at the start of June, opening up a month-long onslaught of coverage on protesters and rioters in response to the police killing of George Floyd. The country, and his show, were going split screen. Building off the scary nonstop headlines about the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, cities around the US were seeing newfound energy coalescing around the fight to resolve over two centuries of racial injustice. On Fox, Carlson aired footage of rioters bashing store owners in the head with two-by-four planks. He showed one man being beaten on the street while curled up in a ball trying to protect himself. Using his powerful platform night after night, Carlson laid the blame for the protests not with the police but with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Haley, and all the Republicans who had yet to stand firm against the chaos. He continued banging this drum for days, but one comment captured the attention of progressive activists above all others. On his June 8 show, Carlson said: "This may be a lot of things, this moment we're living through, but it is definitely not about black lives. And remember that when they come for you. And, at this rate, they will." Carlson never precisely defined who the "mob" was, but left-leaning observers said they heard a clear dog whistle: wild Black rioters intent on tearing down American society. Judd Legum, a former Democratic opposition research director turned journalist, and the anonymous online collective Sleeping Giants led an advertiser boycott of Carlson's show. Disney, Papa John's, T-Mobile, and others quickly dropped their sponsorship. "Over the last several days, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has used his platform to repeatedly attack and denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement," Legum wrote in his newsletter, Popular Information. He also flagged Carlson's history of downplaying the threat of white supremacy in the country: "None of this is out of character for Carlson. He has a long history of using white nationalist rhetoric." Punching back in characteristic Fox News fashion, the conservative network issued a statement saying activists and advertisers had misinterpreted Carlson's comments as racially charged. Carlson, his corporate employer said, was not a racist. "Tucker's warning about 'when they come for you' was clearly referring to Democratic leaders and politicians," a Fox News spokesperson in a statement said. Something interesting was also happening during this same period. Carlson soared in the ratings. Earlier this week, Fox triumphantly announced their second-quarter ratings, and Carlson broke the record for the most-watched show, clocking in at an average of 4.3 million viewers, just edging out the prior ratings king, Sean Hannity. Ever since securing the coveted prime-time slot Bill O'Reilly once held, Carlson had served as a prominent lead-in for the highest-rated show on television hosted by Sean Hannity. Now some say the order of their programs might be worth flipping. "Tucker has more impact than anybody, including Hannity," one Republican familiar with the White House and Carlson said. Jon Stewart's slap-down For years, Carlson worked as a creation of the elite on the right. He came up under the guidance of Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard, before securing a prime spot at Tina Brown's much-touted operation, Talk magazine, in 1999. There, he lit up Washington with his interview of George W. Bush, featuring the Bush family scion back when he was the governor of Texas mocking a death-row inmate pleading to him for her life. (Bush's advisers vehemently denied Carlson's accounts.) Carlson parlayed his reporting and writing success into on-air slots at CNN, just as cable was rising as the dominant medium in politics. And in 2001, alongside former Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala, he took over "Crossfire," the bombastic talk show that featured polar-opposite partisans fighting over policy and politics. By Trump-era standards, the partisan bickering of "Crossfire" now seems tame, bordering on civil even. But in the moment, as cable news was growing into a dominant force in American politics before the venomous battlegrounds of Twitter and Facebook emerged, their showdowns were stunning. Enter Stewart, who was then just a couple of years into his own rising stardom as the host of "The Daily Show," the satirical late-night program that made its mark by pointing out the absurdities of the George W. Bush administration. Stewart made a guest appearance on "Crossfire" in mid-October 2004, just as John Kerry and Bush were in the home stretch of their presidential campaign. What Stewart had to say surprised everyone watching, the hosts included, with his blatant appeal for the show to tone down its toxicity. "I have privately amongst my friends, and also in occasional newspapers and in television shows, mentioned this show as being bad," Stewart said, to the laughter of the studio audience. "And I felt that wasn't fair, and I felt I should come here and tell you it's not so much that it's bad as it's hurting America." Then Stewart slapped the bowtie on Carlson for the next 16 years. "This is theater, this is — how old are you?" Stewart asked Carlson. Carlson said "35." Stewart hit back: "And you wear a bowtie?" A year later CNN took "Crossfire" off the air. 'Whatever you think of his politics, it isn't a put-on' In 2010, Carlson created The Daily Caller to compete with liberal news aggregator Huffington Post. He had startup money from Republican mega-donor Foster Friess and a mission to scour his conservative colleagues for leaning too hard on disinformation and inaccurate reports to make their arguments. He said they needed facts and muckraking at their back. Carlson went on to build a generation of conservative journalists who would move from his operation out into the wider media ecosphere and, in some cases, migrating with him to his Fox News production team. He also sharpened the nationalist populist message he'd been increasingly moving toward. "The mistake people make is thinking that he's an opportunist who suddenly changed what he believes because of Trump — or that he sold out to Fox. Some people fit that mold, but not Tucker," said Matt Lewis, a columnist for The Daily Beast and one of the veteran conservative activists Carlson hired in 2010 to write for The Daily Caller. "The truth is that he has been increasingly populist for at least a decade, and probably longer. Whatever you think of his politics, it isn't a put-on," Lewis added. That strident nationalist tone also sounded a lot like a veteran Republican operative who was running Trump for president: Roger Stone. Stone and Carlson have been close for more than a decade, according to former Carlson colleagues. After he started The Daily Caller, Carlson enlisted Stone to write occasionally under the title "Daily Caller Men's Fashion Editor," a playful dig at the New York gossip class and homage to Stone's fashion sense. Stone in turn counseled Carlson in a 2015 profile that he should have never lost the bow tie. "I don't know if some image consultant at Fox told him to do that," Stone told The New York Times. "Everybody said, 'Oh, yeah, it's the guy with the bow tie.' It was like a trademark. I wouldn't have given the bow tie up.'" The Stone-Carlson relationship grew more serious during the Trump era as congressional and federal investigators examined the longtime political adviser to the president over his public boasts that he'd spoken with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about the stolen emails surfacing during the 2016 campaign to damage Hillary Clinton. Before his arrest, in early 2019, Carlson gave Stone valuable airtime to make his case. Then after a Washington, DC, jury convicted Stone, in November, of lying to Congress and witness tampering, Carlson directly asked Trump to pardon Stone. All of Carlson's Stone coverage hasn't gone without notice. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple accused Carlson in February of being a "shill" for the longtime GOP operative, and wrote that Carlson was effectively running a campaign to get Stone's conviction thrown out. The COVID warrior In January, as the Trump impeachment trial subsumed Congress and much of America, Carlson spotted a brewing storm. He turned his focus to the novel coronavirus ravaging China, a threat that seemed imminent to touching down in the US. "Why am I watching impeachment coverage all day?" Carlson asked Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton in January during a segment on China's failed attempt to control the coronavirus. "I'm totally opposed to alarmism — there's already enough of that. But we should identify the real risks and focus on them. And this is a real risk." In March, Carlson visited Trump's private club, Mar-a-Lago, with a personal plea that the president take the public-health threat seriously. He delivered that message a couple of days before the country largely shut down. "When you live in a country where everything is political and people are seeing, you know, every development through an ideological lens, either as a way to gain advantage or as a threat to their current advantage, it's very hard to tell a straightforward story," Carlson later said of his thinking in a Vanity Fair interview. Through the start of the pandemic, while other Fox News hosts played down the severity of the crisis, Carlson stayed on it. Academics noticed. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in June found that Carlson's viewers took protective measures against the virus much earlier than Hannity's because they were exposed to less misinformation. But as the debate turned from protecting lives and stopping the spread of the virus to salvaging the economy, Carlson turned, too. He attacked top federal health official Dr. Anthony Fauci as the "chief buffoon of the professional class" and argued that, since Fauci had missed the severity of the pandemic months earlier, he could not be trusted when he said the country should remain shut down longer. "Fauci says that children should stay home or countless people will die — that's the message," Carlson said in May. "So I'm going to ask a very simple question: How does he know this exactly? Is Tony Fauci right about the science?" It was time to reopen the country cautiously, Carlson said. He referenced Georgia, which had reopened at the start of May, and maintained that hospitalizations were "lower than ever" despite "much hysteria and finger-wagging from the press." Around this time, faithful Carlson viewers noticed his show changing, too. He shifted from throwing predictable darts at the left and at the press, and began sharpening his opening monologues. As the Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation, the new Carlson emerged as the leader of an angry white middle class. His searing monologues, à la the outraged fictional news anchor Howard Beale from the 1976 film "Network," warned that America was already in the middle of a race war and his supporters were not racists. Carlson said Black Lives Matter was not about ending police brutality but about a Soviet-style revolutionary takeover of the country. He said the protesters had merged with the "deep state" and were prepared to depose the president. As Carlson led the far-right opposition to the protests, the president himself followed suit, moving from avoiding comment on the protests and sheltering in the White House to teargassing protesters and threatening to throw them in jail for defacing monuments. Trump was following Carlson's lead, Republicans said. And as Trump followed Carlson's lead, the chatter among some in the GOP and his conservative-media brethren started wondering if maybe Carlson ought not be the one in the Oval Office.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths
Social gatherings and campaign rallies like those planned by President Trump could spread infections this summer....Social gatherings and campaign rallies like those planned by President Trump could spread infections this summer. People should wear masks and continue social distancing, public health researchers say.