- Two prominent right-wing media personalities are denying the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus and spreading conspiracy theories to boost the president.
- Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed “the coronavirus is the common cold” and argued that the Democratic Party “poses a far greater threat” to the country than the virus does.
- Fox News primetime host Laura Ingraham claimed 2020 Democratic candidates “are either hoping for misery or actually peddling it.”
- President Donald Trump has spread misleading claims about the coronavirus’ potential trajectory and death rate.
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Some of President Donald Trump’s most vocal backers in right-wing media are downplaying the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus and spreading conspiracy theories to boost the president’s response.
Just weeks after Trump awarded conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honour, Limbaugh went to bat for Trump’s coronavirus response.
On Monday, Limbaugh falsely claimed on his radio show that “the coronavirus is the common cold.”
After Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Centre for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, announced that the coronavirus’ spread in the US was inevitable, Limbaugh and others began spreading a conspiracy that Messonnier is part of the “deep state” out to undermine the president because her brother is former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
Messonnier’s announcement came shortly after Trump claimed the virus was “totally under control.”
The controversial radio host argued during his Wednesday show that the Democratic Party, and Sen. Bernie Sanders in particular, “poses a far greater threat” to the country than the virus does.
“The forces arrayed against Donald Trump are doing everything they can to weaponize this to harm the economy, to harm the stock market in hopes of harming President Trump,” he went on.
“They are trying to use this coronavirus to scare the hell out of everybody in their madcap hopes of finding something that will get rid of Donald Trump,” Limbaugh said. “It’s exactly like the panic and fearmongering you heard for two years over Russia meddling in and stealing the election.”
Limaugh went on to argue that the American virus response effort doesn’t require more funding, as Democrats argue, offering no evidence except the president’s word to support the claim.
Fox News primetime host Laura Ingraham claimed 2020 Democratic candidates “are either hoping for misery or actually peddling it.”
“Democrats and their media cronies have decided to weaponize fear and also weaponised suffering to improve their chances against Trump in November,” Ingraham said during her Wednesday night program. “The facts don’t matter to the Trump haters.”
Trump held a press briefing with government officials responsible for the coronavirus response, including former Vice President Mike Pence, on Wednesday night and downplayed the risk of the virus, insisting the US is “very, very ready for this, for anything.”
Trump has also argued that the coronavirus is only as threatening as the seasonal flu, but the reported death rate from the novel virus in China is much higher. The president also misleadingly claimed that the coronavirus will go away in April as temperatures rise.
Democrats have sharply condemned Trump’s response to the virus, calling his request for $US2.5 billion in funding inadequate and “anemic,” and his administration’s announcement that a potential virus may not be affordable for many Americans “absolutely disgusting.”
— John Whitehouse+ (@existentialfish) February 27, 2020
Right on schedule: The rightwing news sites (Gateway Pundit, Rush Limbaugh, etc.) have seized upon the fact that Dr. Nancy Messonnier—the CDC official who warned of potential severe disruptions—is Rod Rosenstein's sister. ????
Buckle up. This is going to keep getting stupider. pic.twitter.com/PTyGz0FKlH
— Mark Strauss (@MarkDStrauss) February 26, 2020
Stocks tumbled on Thursday as investors panicked at the growing prospect of the novel coronavirus becoming a pandemic and choking global growth.
The virus – which causes a flu-like disease called COVID-19 – has infected more than 82,000 people – the vast majority in China – and killed more than 2,800. It has spread to more than 40 countries and the World Health Organisation announced this week that the world should prepare for a pandemic.
“All countries, whether they have cases or not, must prepare for a potential pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. “We are not just fighting to contain a virus and save lives. We are also in a fight to contain the social and economic damage a global pandemic could do.”
There is no cure for COVID-19, and no vaccine yet either, though scientists in the US at the National Institutes of Health say one could be ready for testing within months. The best preventative measure is thorough, regular hand-washing.
Theron Mohamed contributed to this report.