Fox News prime-time host Laura Ingraham, who has no medical or scientific expertise, mocked public health concerns about vaccines, testing and contact tracing programs on her show Friday, accusing Democrats of pushing "panic porn" because "they don't even like you."
This article first appeared in Salon.
Ingraham offered fulsome praise of President Trump's Friday afternoon Rose Garden address, saying that Trump had "set a high bar with an aggressive timeline" for a vaccine, but that "he gave America at the same time just what she needed: optimism for opening."
She played video of Trump touting what he called "the most aggressive vaccine project in history."
"And I just want to make something clear. It's very important," the president said, with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases visible just over his shoulder, wearing a medical mask. "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back. And we're starting the process."
"I was doing the fist-pump right there," Ingraham responded. "Yes."
"Democrats, on the other hand, they just prefer us to cower and crouch in our houses," she continued. "They are pushing — a friend of mine called it today — panic porn."
"They say we need multiple vaccines — not just one, but multiple," she complained. "They say the vaccines, even if we have them, we don't know how effective they will be. They say we need as many as 300,000 government paid tracers and trackers, hundreds of millions of tests, all of that before we can open again. And a purple unicorn on every street corner."
Ingraham appeared to be responding to recent testimony from two senior health officials, Fauci and Dr. Rick Bright, the administration's recently ousted director of vaccine projects, both of whom admonished lawmakers that fully reopening the country without a coronavirus vaccine was an invitation to renewed calamity.
Fauci responded to a question about having adequate treatments or vaccines in place for students to return to colleges, universities and major school districts this fall. "In this case, the idea of having treatments available — or a vaccine to facilitate re-entry — would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far," Fauci told senators in a videoconference hearing early last week. "Even at the top speed we're going, we don't see a vaccine playing a role in the ability of individuals in going back to school this term."
"Our window of opportunity is closing," said Bright, who says he was fired for pushing back against widespread deployment of hydroxychloroquine, the unproven coronavirus treatment favored by the president and a slew of Fox News personalities, including Ingraham. "Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history," he said.
Ingraham told her viewers, however, that these dire concerns reflected a more basic issue: Coastal liberal types simply don't like them.
"The basic point here is Democrats just don't trust you, and frankly, they don't even like you, so of course they want you to stay indoors, off the streets and even out of your churches. With only a few exceptions, blue-state governors all favor lockdowns over liberty," she said.
No Democratic governors have issued distinct social distancing restrictions specifically for Republican constituents.
By way of example, Ingraham cut to a clip from "one of the worst," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has condemned the lockdown protests in her state as exercises in anger and bigotry.
"These protests, in a perverse way, make it likelier that we're going to have to stay in a stay-home posture," Whitmer said.
"You're not behaving," Ingraham mocked, wagging a finger before moving on to Democratic governors Jay Inslee of Washington, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois ("Ooh, big threat from a big man," she said, apparently mocking Pritzker's weight) and Gavin Newsom of California.
"As long as it's called an emergency, these governors think they can trample on your rights with impunity, and they're doing that," she said.
Ingraham — who, like all her Fox News colleagues, has been shooting her program from home, not at the network's corporate studios in Manhattan — has relentlessly ridiculed the advice of public health officials, peddling junk science and conspiracy theories that sow doubt about the motivations behind federal and state guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Rush Limbaugh made a great point, as he always does, on the radio the other day," Ingraham told viewers earlier this month. "And he said the virus itself — as it weakens and states start reopening, the media that have been selling panic, panic, panic for weeks and weeks and weeks, they have fewer images to sell their hysteria to justify continued lockdowns. But the masks, well, they're kind of a constant reminder. You see the mask, and you think you are not safe. You are not back to normal — not even close."
Turning back to her viewers at the end of Friday's segment, Ingraham lauded those who risking arrest, not to mention their own health and the general public's, to protest social-distancing guidelines around the country.
"And you get the sense, just being out there, that Americans are fed up," she said, over a chyron that read "Americans fight back against tryranny [sic]." It was not apparent whether the misspelling was intentional.
Fox News has extended its work-from-home guidance for all employees through at least mid-June.