It’s Not Just Irresponsible; It’s Dangerous

Published: March 16, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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At a February 28 political rally, President Trump said, “The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. … This is their new hoax.”

In attempting to correct his meaning, Trump later said, “The ‘hoax’ was used with respect to Democrats and what they were saying. It was a ‘hoax,’ what they were saying.”

No one is clear on what Trump was saying.

A few days later, the president tweeted:

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’ ” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020

But it wasn’t Democrats exaggerating the seriousness of the coronavirus, it was non-partisan experts from the CDC and World Health Organization that were sounding the alarm. This caused Trump to reverse course and declare a “national emergency” 4 days later (Mar. 13), in response to the unprecedented health crisis.

However, while the president continues to offer misleading and, at times, contradictory information, many of his staunchest supporters continue to stand with him.

Ryan Leonard of Calhoun County Tennessee, believes that “the severity of the virus is a media-spawned ‘hoax,’ ” The New York Times writes (Mar. 14).

“ ‘It’s a scare tactic,” said Mark Hammond, a Republican from La Plata, Md. ‘Altogether it’s part of a Democratic long game.’ ”

The most frightening part of Hammond’s remarks came after attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where one attendee tested positive for the virus: “I have not changed one thing in my daily life.”

But that’s not the worst part.

Conservative pundit, Sean Hannity, with zero background in infectious diseases, “…used his syndicated talk-radio program on Wednesday [Mar. 11] to share a prediction he had found on Twitter about what is really happening with the coronavirus: It’s a ‘fraud’ by the deep state to spread panic in the populace, manipulate the economy and suppress dissent.

“ ‘May be true,’ Mr. Hannity declared…”

While Hannity was not the author of the Twitter statement, only suggesting that it “may be true,” he nevertheless, passed that information on to millions of radio listeners.

“Despite Mr. Hannity’s own skeptical commentary,” The Times reports, his Tuesday show [on Fox] featured Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a guest. He told Mr. Hannity that he wanted to ‘make sure’ viewers knew that the coronavirus ‘is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu — you got to make sure that people understand that.’

“On Tuesday, the star anchor told his viewers, effectively, to relax.

“ ‘Sadly, these viruses pop up time to time,’ Mr. Hannity said…”

All of this occurred within the last two weeks!

According to Politifact, Sean Hannity’s scorecard on the truth is appalling. In 26 of his most recent statements, 25 percent are rated True or Mostly True, compared to 51 percent rated False or Mostly False.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s scorecard is nothing to shout about, either. In 29 of her most recent statements, Politifact reported that 40 percent of her statements are rated True/Mostly True, compared to 40 percent False/Mostly False.

THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE. It’s a global health issue requiring the most science-based information possible from reliable sources.

According to Forbes, Hannity’s “average total audience [is] 3.138 million viewers.”

If only 1 percent of Hannity’s audience believes his remark that the deep state “may be” responsible for exaggerating concern for the virus over what medical experts have declared, 31,000 individuals will not only be putting themselves at risk but those with whom they come in contact.

That’s not just irresponsible, it’s dangerous.

To his credit, Fox colleague “Tucker Carlson seemed to speak directly to skeptics like the president and Mr. Hannity… ‘People you trust, people you probably voted for, have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,’ Mr. Carlson said, adding: ‘People you know will get sick, some may die.’ ”

But that didn’t stop the misinformation train.

“…Matt Schlapp, president of CPAC, who has sequestered himself at home because he also shook the infected attendee’s hand, appeared on Fox News in recent days to malign the media for exaggerating the threat.

“And though he acknowledged in a subsequent interview that he had no medical training, he has made claims about the coronavirus and its apparent lack of contagiousness.”

“Asked by CNN’s Brianna Keilar on State of the Union if he’d like a ‘national lockdown’ where people are being told they need to stay home and out of restaurants and bars, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said he’d ‘like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see’ in those places.

“ ‘Whatever it takes to do that, that’s what I’d like to see,’ Fauci added.

“ ‘We need to be very serious about — for a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States. We have to just accept that if we want to do what’s best for the American public.’ ”

During an unparalleled global health crisis that will affect millions, we need the best medically-based information and advice – the kind offered by Fauci and others at the CDC and World Health Organization, period!


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