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Fifty-two weeks ago, as the United States entered the grips of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo hosted a panel discussion that touted the idea of everyone in the country quickly becoming infected with the deadly disease in order to move the nation through the crisis. The anti-social distancing rhetoric on the March 20 program last year stressed that too many jobs were being lost to the shutdown.
"If you have everybody who has coronavirus, maybe it's less of a threat, because the immunity goes up," Bartiromo declared. "The herd immunity strategy. Move in herds, and everybody gets it."
Experts have said that if the U.S. had adopted the reckless herd mentality, 1.5 million Americans would have died. But irresponsible misinformation has been a Bartiromo trademark since the onset of the deadly pandemic. Working hard to confuse Fox viewers about the threats of the virus, Bartiromo has lied about its origins for over a year, insisting the allegedly man-made virus came from an research laboratory in Wuhan, China, was purposely released by the Communist government, which covered it up, and effectively interfered with Trump's re-election.
Right from the pandemic's outbreak, Fox News downplayed and minimized the coronavirus and assured viewers it was likely a partisan Democratic, "Deep State" plot to take down Trump just like impeachment. Fox News generated huge profits while spreading blatant public health disinformation to an audience that skews older. According to Nielsen Media Research, the median age of a Fox News viewer is 67, while the Centers for Disease Control stressed last winter that "older adults" were "at higher risk of getting very sick" from the coronavirus.
We'll never know how many people have died because of Fox News' reckless misinformation, as the channel devoted hundreds of hours to partisan Covid conspiracies, and ushered non-experts onto the air to whip up paranoia.
Amidst all those ceaseless lies, more than half-a-million Americans have perished from Covid. Last week, Bartiromo’s booking producer, Eric Spinato, became one of them. A cable news veteran, Spinato, "returned to Fox in 2007 and worked at the company ever since, working primarily with Maria Bartiromo," CNN reported. "Eric was an immensely gifted and aggressive booker and was renowned for booking the innumerable 'gets' we've seen on both FNC and FBN over the years," company executives wrote to employees.
Spinato's passing highlights the fantasy, alternate world that Bartiromo and Fox News have projected onto the country as it suffers through the still-raging Covid virus. What network hosts have been telling viewers for the past twelve months does not reflect reality, and it's a dangerous game the network continues to play. Today, hosts are constantly raising doubts about the Covid vaccine.
Last year, three studies, “focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus,” the Washington Post reported. “Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.”
Fox News spread confusion and doubt about the pandemic while making sure its employees stayed safe. Last winter while network hosts were publicly mocking the idea of a looming virus crisis, executives were privately warning staffers about the surging public health storm.
When right-wing, anti-lockdown rallies began to appear, largely populated by Trump fans who refused to wear masks or socially distance themselves, Fox News hosts cheered them, but from a distance. They all refused to show up in-person. Well-paid Fox News hosts didn't want to risk being exposed to the virus at the rallies, so they applauded from the confines of a television studio.
The pandemic precautions were "mindless and authoritarian,” claimed Tucker Carlson, warning of Democratic "fascism." So why wasn't Carlson eagerly wading into the crowds at right-wing protests? If fascist forces had 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 did they simply want to cheer on others as they recklessly risk their health by ignoring pandemic guidelines?
Meanwhile, Bartiromo worked overtime spreading lies and confusion about the public health crisis. Last month, she hosted Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who claimed the Biden administration was releasing undocumented immigrants into Texas and that they were spreading Covid across the state. She boosted the claim, suggesting migrants were flooding across the border with ten times the Covid rate as Americans. Fact: The infection rate of migrants today is lower than the overall positivity rate in the state of Texas.
Following Trump's loss to Joe Biden, Bartiromo went off the rails and into QAnon territory, pushing every conceivable election conspiracy. One week after her own network declared Biden the winner, she confidently announced, “the 2020 election will be overturned.” Two months later, an insurrectionist mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Fox News’ torrent of lies have real-world consequences, including for the pandemic.
In Monday’s PRESS RUN, I wrote about how the Washington Post newsroom went all in with anti-Biden coverage of the migrant immigration story. Echoing GOP talking points about the largest border “surge” in “20 years,” and how Biden was to blame, the article was a mess.
On Tuesday, the Post published an outside piece by three professors who thoroughly undercut that over-the-top reporting. From, “There’s No Migrant ‘Surge’ at the U.S. Southern Border. Here’s The Data”:
We looked at data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to see whether there’s a “crisis” — or even a “surge,” as many news outlets have characterized it. We analyzed monthly CBP data from 2012 to now and found no crisis or surge that can be attributed to Biden administration policies. Rather, the current increase in apprehensions fits a predictable pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020’s coronavirus border closure.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Hiss Golden Messenger, “Sanctuary”
Here’s a perfect example, for me, of a new song that takes a few listens for the enjoyment to really wash over. Then it’s mellow, Southern rock bliss.
According to M.C. Taylor, guitarist and frontman for Hiss Golden Messenger, “The song “Sanctuary” is one small piece of my own personal reckoning with what it feels like to search for some kind of shelter in the storm. Fare thee well, John Prine, AKA Handsome Johnny, a speaker of truth if ever there was one.”
You want good news
You want sanctuary
When you try to get real
Oh, they break you on the wheel
You wanna move
You want sanctuary
That's all that I can offer to you
From the bottom to the bone
To the bone