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Conservative columnist shreds Fox News for dangerously misinforming America on coronavirus

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Fox News host Sean Hannity/Screenshot

Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin ripped Fox News to shreds for contributing to the nonstop misinformation campaign that is killing many Americans and putting even more at risk.

Writing Tuesday, Rubin cited a Pew Research study that those who watch MSNBC are far more likely to answer correctly questions about the coronavirus or COVID-19. When it comes to the partisan breakdown, the results are “striking,” she said.

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Those who call MSNBC their main political news source (92 percent) are far more likely to say the media covered the [novel coronavirus] outbreak somewhat or very well than the Fox News group (58 percent),” Pew finds. “And they are much less likely than those who name Fox News as their main source to say the media exaggerated the risks posed by the pandemic (35 percent of the MSNBC group vs. 79 percent of the Fox News group).”

The virus never originated in a lab and it isn’t some “Communist China” conspiracy, despite what Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) might claim. There will not be a vaccine soon and the drugs that Trump has talked about are not cures, they’re alleged “treatments,” that no one has even tested on enough people to see if they’re effective.

“The people who listen to Fox News got not merely biased information but wrong information — information that might have induced them to expose themselves unnecessarily to deadly risks (e.g., ignore social-distancing instructions),” said Rubin. “As one would expect, the Fox New pandemic of disinformation afflicts Republicans disproportionately.”

A whopping 76 percent of those who said Fox News was their main source of information identified as conservative Republican or Republican leaders. Only 57 percent of MSNBC viewers identified as liberal. CNN is much lower with 38 percent who identify as liberal.

“In short, Fox News — its anchors, its contributors, its panelists and its guests (e.g., Republican elected officials) — have spread provably wrong information to its viewers on arguably the most important story in our lifetimes,” said Rubin. “A large percentage of Americans who form the Trump cult and absorb his misleading information (It’s like the flu! Plenty of tests!) get their misinformation reinforced by an outlet that seeks as its main goal to support the president.”

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She said it’s highly unlikely “Fox executives and Fox News advertisers might want to reflect on a business model that depends on misinforming millions of Americans about a life-threatening pandemic,” even during a pandemic that could kill their audience.

“Fox News has hid behind two canards for years: First, it is a counterweight to ‘liberal bias.’ Second, there is a division between straight news during the daytime and evening opinion shows. Neither rationalization holds up,” she continued.

In the words of writer Aldous Huxley, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” When Stephen Colbert hosted his conservative-mocking Comedy Central show, he joked that “truth has a well-known liberal bias.” It seems Fox News has taken it liberally, whether logic dictates otherwise.

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“One does not combat bias (real or exaggerated) by presenting false narratives, ignoring factual material that contradicts one’s ideological preferences or attacking outlets that are presenting accurate information (i.e., the mainstream media),” said Rubin. “The Pew survey demonstrates that Fox News is not merely counteracting supposed bias against Trump but conveying false, and in this case, dangerous, information.”

Fox’s biggest problem is not creating a clear divide between news and opinion television personalities. With “News” in the title of the network, one might assume that Laura Ingraham puts facts first. Not true.

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But according to Rubin, “Fox’s daytime programming is every bit as misleading and inaccurate as its nighttime fare. Its interviews are generally embarrassing softball affairs that allow misinformation to go unrebutted (e.g., its recent White House town hall).”

She also noted that claiming “opinion” on lies isn’t an excuse during a health crisis. Every outlet must be factual during an outbreak like this.

“The bottom line is that Fox News is not performing the most basic journalistic function, namely, to inform the public,” Rubin closed. “It blasts out propaganda and misinformation. That is morally obnoxious in normal times. In the era of covid-19, however, it may have deadly consequences.”

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Read the full editorial at the Washington Post.


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