Fox News hosts love "reopen" rallies — they just don't want to risk being near protesters
What's Tucker Carlson afraid of?
Hyping small bands of right-wing protesters angry about stay-at-home orders during the nation's pandemic, Fox News is boosting the modest street actions as a way to present the current health crisis as another chapter in the channel's never-ending cultural war news cycle. From praising organizers to displaying the locations of future rallies, "Fox News Is Desperately Trying to Turn Coronavirus Protests Into the Next Tea Party," a Vanity Fair headline announced this week, referring to the supposedly "populist" protest movement that greeted Barack Obama's presidency in 2009.
But there's a big difference this time around — Fox News hosts aren't showing up at the "reopen America" rallies where defiant protesters disregard social distancing guidelines and refuse to wear protective masks, thereby possibly spreading the illness. Well-paid Fox News hosts don't want to personally appear at the protests the way they constantly showed up at Tea Party rallies — Tea Party rallies that didn’t pose the threat of a highly contagious virus in the air.
It's almost like Fox News hosts are loudly condemning stay-at-home orders, but won't actually put themselves at risk by defying them at crowded public rallies with strangers who are busy condemning Democratic politicians.
This two-faced approach has been a hallmark of the channel's pandemic programming. This winter while Fox News staffers were publicly mocking the idea of a looming virus problem, echoing Trump's claims that the warnings were part of a "Deep State" effort to doom his presidency, network executives were warning employees about the coming public health storm.
That's still all true today. "Behind the scenes, Fox has most staffers working from home. They've limited people from entering offices," noted CNN's Oliver Darcy. "They've sent essential employees thermometers and told them to take their temp before entering building. And they've encouraged such staff to wear face coverings."
Fox News hosts won't even share the same couch anymore, as they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Fox News' afternoon show, "Outnumbered," now uses a "virtual couch," as all the participants appear remotely.
With the emergence of the deep-pocketed protests targeting Democratic governors, such as Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, who are trying to protect the population, Fox News suddenly can't stand social distancing and sees its loud critics as patriots.
As Media Matters' Matt Gertz's recently noted:
“NO TO THE ‘NANNY STATE’” read the headline of the lead story on the website’s front page that afternoon. Daytime anchors either falsely claimed the attendees were observing social distancing or blamed Whitmer for their failure to do so. And protest organizers got softball interviews to promote their cause to millions of viewers.
If this looks familiar it's because Fox News essentially co-sponsored the Tea Party's "take back our country" movement with ceaseless promotion as a way to create anti-Obama programming. In 2009, Fox News provided attendance and organizing information. In early April, as a large Tax Day event approached, the network announced that four hosts – Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity -- would appear live at tea party sites across the country and broadcast the protests live throughout the day.
By then, Fox News referred to the tea parties as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” and the Fox Nation also hosted its own “virtual tea party," Media Matters reported. One Fox News producer was even caught coaching a crowd to cheer during one Tea Party Express event.
Today, the network has taken a hands-off approach from the physical rallies, most likely because hosts and producers don't want to be infected with the deadly virus from activists who refuse to adhere to social distancing guidelines, or wear protective face masks.
The double standard is startling when you hear Fox News hosts railing against the stay-at-home orders, depicting them as naked power grabs by Democrats. The pandemic precautions are "mindless and authoritarian,” claimed Tucker Carlson, warning of Democratic "fascism." If that's the case, why isn't Carlson wading into the crowds at right-wing protests? If fascist forces have been let loose in the country, wouldn't Carlson and his colleagues want to be on the ground to document it and to protest it? Or do they simply want to cheer on others as they recklessly risk their health by ignoring pandemic guidelines?
The same with Laura Ingraham, who tweeted “Time to get your freedom back.” Instead of appearing at these pandemic rallies, Ingraham tapes her Fox News show from a safe distance.
It's not just Fox News that advertising its blinding hypocrisy. Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan recently went on Fox News and urged that governors who issued stay-at-home orders be investigated by Congress. To date, I haven't seen Jordan show up mask-less at any protests rubbing shoulders with GOP activists while America's Covid-19 death count climbs.
"Why doesn’t Donald Trump go out and meet with the protesters who’ve been hanging with each other, shaking hands, hugging?" asked SiriusXM host Michelangelo Signorile. "You know, go and shake their hands, tell them what a great job they're doing? Invite them to the White House? Show the world how “liberated” you are." And why aren't Trump's children front and center at these events?
If Fox News hosts think stay-at-home orders are so un-America, why don't the right-wing talkers summon the courage to dive into a crowd of protesters for a few hours?
👍🏻 GOOD STUFF:
As I noted Monday, the mainstream media's coverage of the "reopen America" events has been deeply flawed, mostly because news outlets are devoting way too much time and attention to a small group of activists. (The New York Times covered the story on its front page Tuesday, while conceding the protests draw "small crowds.") Another problem with the coverage is how the press politely avoids detailing the radical, anti-government, insurrectionist fuel that's driving the actions.
At The Nation, Elie Mystal pulls no punches with his excellent piece, "These People Aren’t Freedom Fighters—They’re Virus-Spreading Sociopaths":
That these protesters are couching their demand to force people back to work in the language of patriotism is a sick joke. Patriotism contemplates sacrificing your individual desires for the good of the country. Patriotism involves the idea of solidarity and self-sacrifice in the face of national danger.
🎸FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Rockin'1000 at Milano-Linate, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
It's 1,000 guitarists, bassist, drummers, keyboardists, and singers simultaneously performing The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" in a stadium in Italy. I don't know what else to tell you, other than I've watched it 15 times and it makes me happy every single time. It’s probably seeing the joy in the performances' faces as they pull off this very cool feat.
It’s worth a look.
Looks like they are betting on the wrong horse. A whopping 75% of seniors oppose reopening. Only 16% support it according to a Morning Consult poll.
Then there is study showing that Fox News hosts that downplayed the virus have helped to spread the virus and cost lives. Studies of the effect of propaganda on people’s behavior and beliefs are notoriously hard to do well but this one has done a credible job.
The media should give at least as much attention to these stories as they did to those pitiful “freedom” rallies.
Ohio rep. Jim Jordan, otherwise, it's brilliant, Eric!