How Trump and his Fox News allies are infecting the public trust amid coronavirus concerns

CNN’s Brian Stelter discusses how President Trump’s media allies are downplaying the coronavirus.

In times of emergency — whether it’s a major hurricane, terror attack, or health crisis — the public relies on the press for much-needed information. In some of these cases, it can be a matter of life and death. And given the current coronavirus outlook, there will soon be a lot of questions the public will need answers to.

What preventive measures should people take? How will the spread of the coronavirus disrupt everyday life? Will businesses without paid sick leave, especially in the service industries, allow employees to stay home if ill? Journalists have been and continue to be hard at work, talking to medical professionals and government officials to deliver the public answers to these important questions.

Unfortunately, President Trump and some of his allies in right-wing media are choosing to attack news organizations for delivering the public this information. And while it’s not surprising that pro-Trump media forces are going to extensive lengths to defend the President, given the risk to public health, it’s nothing short of alarming.

Hannity & Ingraham attack and mock media for coverage

Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters in media have downplayed concerns about the coronavirus and misled their audiences by telling them that news organizations and members of the Democratic Party are weaponizing fear in a bid to hurt the President’s re-election efforts. Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have advanced this conspiratorial line of thinking, as has conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, among others. Read my full story on it here…

On Thursday night it was more of the same. Hannity mocked concerns about the potential threat of the coronavirus. “I can report the sky is absolutely falling, we’re all doomed, the end is near,” Hannity said, adding, “Or at least that’s what the media mob and the Democratic extreme radical socialist party want you to think.” Even during his softball interview with Mike Pence, Hannity attacked top Democrats as “politicizing” the situation.

During the next hour, Ingraham continued the theme. She downplayed concerns and told viewers to “calm down.” Chryons on her show read “LEFT’S CORONAVIRUS SMEAR CAMPAIGN,” “LEFT’S CORONAVIRUS FEARMONGERING,” and “LEFT TRYING TO PANIC AMERICANS OVER CORONAVIRUS.” Her guest, Trump 2020 advisory board member Harmeet Dhillon accused Trump’s critics of “cheering for a disease to take over America.” You get the idea…

Oh, the irony

Brian Lowry emails: That Ingraham clip about “weaponizing fear” is especially rich if you consider the extent to which fear played in Fox News’ programming decisions under the late Roger Ailes. As documentarian Alexis Bloom — who made “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes” — told Vanity Fair in 2018, “I just hope the film gives a deeper understanding of the current moment in America. The monetization of fear, and the weaponization of fear, and how a channel like Fox News is really making money off stoking people’s fears.”

Meanwhile, Trump tweets Fox segment attacking media

No surprise here, but Trump appeared to spend at least part of his evening watching Fox. In a tweet, the President quoted Fox Business host Trish Regan attacking CNN. Trump then admonished the journalists, writing, “Media refuses to discuss the great job our professionals are doing!” Later he posted another tweet, referring to CNN — at the outset of a potential health crisis — as “Fake News.”

>> Earlier in the day: Will Sommer and Asawin Suebsaeng reported that, amid coronavirus concerns, Trump spent 45 minutes with “deep state” play actors. Trump also met with “Diamond & Silk” and Candace Owens…

White House moves to limit messaging

“The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists,” NYT’s Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman reported, “directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearances with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.”

>> Earlier on CNN, Haberman noted that the “sheer volume of things” Trump has said which are “not true” does not “inspire credibility…”

Media gives voice to whistleblower

WaPo was first with the story, and then other major outlets followed. A whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services has filed a complaint saying that more than a dozen workers who received Americans evacuated over coronavirus concerns from China lacked proper training or protective gear.

How media distorts Trump’s words (in a way that benefits him)

“Big media is covering up Trump’s terrifying incoherence in a time of emergency,” Dan Froomkin concluded after watching Wednesday’s presser and reading the ensuing coverage.

Froomkin wrote: “It was obvious to anyone listening to Trump’s rambling, often incoherent, self-centered, stream-of-consciousness ad-libbing … that: Trump had no real understanding of what he was talking about. He had no sense of what was required of him as president. He sees this as being all about him. There are only so many things that can come out of his head.” Here, Froomkin argued that the news recaps made the presser seem normalish when it was not…

FOR THE RECORD

— Chuck Todd on “MTP Daily” Thursday evening: “Politically speaking, this president may have to reap what he has sown when it comes to the public’s trust, or lack thereof, in the institutions built to keep this democracy healthy…” (MSNBC)

— If you haven’t yet, listen to Michael Barbaro and his coronavirus discussion with NYT science/health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. on “The Daily…” (NYT)

— Emily Bell has a point: “Coronavirus is revealing how poor news design is on platforms for keeping up with stories that are urgent, sprawling and require up to date accurate information…” (Twitter)

— In China, the Chinese “propaganda machine” has not been effective at calming citizens who are “openly criticizing state media…” (NYT)

— Facebook announced Thursday that it was canceling F8, its annual developers conference… (CNN)

— The Mexican beer brand Corona “is being damaged by name association with deadly virus, according to new surveys…” (USA Today)

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