- Fox News host Steve Hilton argued on Sunday that the economic impacts of the social distancing measures being enforced across the US will do more harm to Americans than the coronavirus itself.
- Just a couple of hours later, President Donald Trump echoed Hilton’s argument, tweeting in all caps, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”
- Trump added that he would reevaluate “which way we want to go” on the pandemic response over the next week, suggesting he might scale back the social distancing measures the federal government has recommended.
- Fox News has remained in lockstep with Trump, who spent weeks minimising the growing epidemic until he finally declared a national emergency on March 13.
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Several Fox News hosts are making an unsubstantiated case on air that the economic fallout from the coronavirus response will be worse than the helath impacts of the pandemic.
During his 9 pm Sunday show, Fox host Steve Hilton, a Trump supporter and self-described “positive populist,” argued that the economic impacts of the social distancing measures being enforced across the US will do more harm to Americans than the coronavirus itself.
He even described Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is helping lead the government’s coronavirus response effort, as part of the country’s “ruling class and their TV mouthpieces” and said the nation’s top infectious disease specialist is overreacting to the pandemic.
“Our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces whipping up fear over this virus – they can afford an indefinite shutdown. Working Americans can’t, they will be crushed by it,” Hilton said. “You know that famous phrase, ‘the cure is worse than the disease?’ That is exactly the territory we’re hurtling towards.”
He added, “You think it’s just the coronavirus that will kill people? This total economic shutdown will kill people.”
Just a couple of hours later, President Donald Trump echoed Hilton’s argument, tweeting in all caps, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
Fox News host Steve Hilton last night: “You know that famous phrase, ‘The cure is worse than the disease’? That’s exactly the territory we’re hurtling towards.”
Trump later last night: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” pic.twitter.com/yoNL2ca5ey
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 23, 2020
On Monday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow went on Fox News to reiterate the president’s new argument.
“The president is right. The cure can’t be worse than the disease,” he said. “And we’re going to have to make some difficult tradeoffs.”
Larry Kudlow on Fox News: "The president is right, the cure can't be worse than the disease, and we're going to have to make some difficult trade offs … I spoke to the president about this very subject late last evening, so we'll be looking at a number of different things." pic.twitter.com/5b8TFXJrvE
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) March 23, 2020
On Monday morning, the hosts of Fox’s morning show, “Fox and Friends,” suggested that the US already has the pandemic under control, despite overwhelming evidence that the country hasn’t tested nearly enough people and is running out of essential medical equipment and hospital space for those infected.
“Our numbers are down compared to other countries that are really having a major problem with this,” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said. “Think about how many lives have been saved.”
Another “Fox and Friends” co-host, Steve Doocy, suggested that the president might keep the hardest-hit states, including New York, Washington, and California, on lockdown while letting Americans in other states “get back to work” at the end of the week.
im having a hard time wrapping my head around this making it on airpic.twitter.com/8wnRuUL0xT
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) March 23, 2020
For several weeks following the first confirmed case of the virus in the US, a slew of Fox New’ most-watched hosts aggressively downplayed the threat posed by the coronavirus and ignored scientists and doctors sounding the alarm. Instead, they argued that Democrats and the media were playing up the crisis to hurt the president and his party.
In stark contrast to their on-air talent’s claims, the conservative-leaning network’s leadership took quick action to limit business travel and protect their employees as the virus spread. And notably, 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. The media age of Fox News’ audience was 65 in 2018.
Fox has remained in lockstep with Trump, who also spent weeks minimising the growing epidemic until he finally declared a national emergency on March 13 as states ramped up their responses.
Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard’s Global Public Health Institute who has appeared on Fox News, recently told The New York Times’ media columnist Ben Smith that he thinks people will die because of the channel’s coverage of the pandemic.
“Some commentators in the right-wing media spread a very specific type of misinformation that I think has been very harmful,” Jha said.
Casting science aside in favour of policies that prioritise the economy isn’t new for Fox. The network’s most-watched hosts and shows have long undermined well-established climate science and policies that would mitigate climate change by reducing the country’s carbon emissions.