Feb 16, 2021

For Fox News, Mass Murder In The U.S. Was Just The Cost Of Doing Business

FLASHBACK: Warning From The Non-Profit Media Research Group, Media Matters: With coronavirus, the Fox News-Trump feedback loop will get people killed

Media Matters: For Fox News, mass death in the U.S. was just the cost of doing business

Fox News wrecked the U.S. pandemic response, used protests for racial justice to spread white supremacist propaganda,  and waged an assault on democracy

For the first time in its 16-year history, Media Matters for America is naming Fox News the “Misinformer of the Year,” citing an estimated 13,551 on-air lies about the coronavirus that undermined public safety measures and contributed to the United States’ skyrocketing caseload and death count.

Angelo Carusone, President of Media Matters for America explained the 2020 Misinformer of the Year designation:

No matter how you look at it, no single entity had a more damaging effect on the U.S. pandemic response than Fox News.

While it’s true that social media, and especially Facebook, helped saturate the landscape with COVID misinformation, much of the most prolific COVID misinformation that circulated on social media either was or originated from a Fox News story or was subsequently picked up by Fox News.

The well documented Fox-Trump feedback loop meant that Fox News had a significant influence on the U.S. pandemic response. Trump enacted what he saw on Fox News and Fox News ran cover for the harms resulting from those enactments. From Trump promoting hydroxychloroquine as a magic cure early in the pandemic to the hiring of Fox favorite Scott Atlas, a champion of intentionally infecting the public in order to race to herd immunity, Fox’s influence on U.S. response is evident on policy big and small.

Fox News deserves this designation for its role in worsening the pandemic response -- directly and indirectly contributing to mass death.

While Fox News’ deliberate lies about the coronavirus and public efforts to curb its spread were on their own bad enough to earn it the 2020 Misinformer of the Year designation, Media Matters also points to three other factors: (1) Fox actively spread white supremacist propaganda on the network, helping fuel and grow far-right violence; (2) Fox undermined faith in America’s election integrity by deliberately spreading lies about voting, and (3) Fox promoted climate science denial in the wake of major wildfires and climate emergencies. Media Matters points out that:

  • Fox News’ coverage of the racial justice protests revolved around terrorizing its audience by fixating on instances of rioting, arson, looting, and property damage, at times citing hoaxes or other misinformation. This coverage, which the president watched and echoed, resulted in more indiscriminate violence, as law enforcement attacked protestors and reporters with impunity, cheered on by the president and his propagandists.

  • Fox News cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results nearly 600 times over the nine days after the network declared Biden had won, and as a result, its audience doesn’t believe that Biden actually won.

A non-comprehensive list of 1,000+ examples of Fox News misinformation in 2020 can be found here.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox News’ coverage has been recklessly dominated by misinformation. 

As the total number of deaths reported continues to rise, Fox’s pandemic coverage has callously downplayed both the severity of the crisis as well as the risk posed by the devastating long-term side effects. Beyond actively undermining and casting aspersions on prevention measures such as wearing masks, Fox has also openly stoked calls for civil disobedience and protests against public health protocols -- including the championing of business that ignored basic rules

Before the development of a vaccine, Fox elevated dubious and potentially harmful treatments for COVID-19 as well as giving a consistent platform to a number of guests with no scientific authority to spread misinformation. Now, as vaccine distribution begins, Fox hosts have already begun to focus on undermining public confidence by broadcasting baseless skepticismmisrepresentations, and outright misinformation about the vaccine’s efficacy to viewers with little regard for the consequences.

All of this coverage was bad enough on its own, but became even worse due to the president’s obsession with Fox News.

Fox’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of irresponsible and catastrophic.

Media Matters: MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough sends message to “Fox News’ sponsors” about the network’s continued insurrectionist rhetoric

Scarborough: For Fox News sponsors, to let you know what's happening now,” that network now claims ”Joe Biden and Democrats want to, quote, ‘exterminate’ all Republicans.

JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): You know, Willie, I talked briefly before, and I don't want to get into it — because I don't want to give people the attention that they probably want.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Very much, yes.

SCARBOROUGH: But I will say Fox News had someone I know, a former leader of the Republican Party, saying that Democrats wanted — and I'm using his words here — Democrats wanted to, quote, “exterminate,” exterminate all Republicans. Let me say that again, for Fox News’ sponsors, to let you know.

BRZEZINSKI: And he knows what he's doing.

SCARBOROUGH: For Fox News’ sponsors, to let you know what's happening now on Fox News. That they're getting people who are Fox News contributors, who are saying that Democrats — Joe Biden and Democrats want to, quote, “exterminate” all Republicans.

You also have Fox News hosts that are talking about how Democrats are using troops to make American people submissive. That they are not American troops — they are Democratic troops that are just there to show that they are in complete power.

This is sick, Willie. It's especially sick and damagin, here we are, what, a couple weeks after an insurrection against the United States of America. I understand that Fox News is having trouble because Newsmax is taking some of its viewers, and some of the people think that Fox News hasn't been harsh enough since the election.

But we had mobs surging up to the United States Capitol a couple of weeks ago. And you have a former Republican leader saying that all Democrats want to, quote, “exterminate” Republicans. That is patently — that is patently, patently un-American for him to say that. He is trying to gin up the base so he can make money on his mailing lists, so they can drive ratings up, and so he can inspire an insurrection against the United States as well.

Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich, a former Republican Speaker of the House, alleged Thursday night on Hannity that members of the Biden administration wanted to “exterminate the Republicans.” The day before the January 6 insurrection, Gingrich had also claimed on Sean Hannity's radio show that President Joe Biden's election was the worst assault on America, “maybe since the previous Civil War.”

Other hosts on Fox News, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have suggested that the presence of the National Guard in Washington — in the wake of the attack upon the Capitol — is really a “message about power” and an “obscene move by Democrats to militarize Washington, D.C.”


Media Matters: The Murdochs have blood on their hands

Rupert Murdoch bears responsibility for the Trump COVID-19 response that reportedly “disgust[s]” him

Media Matters: On KPFA's UpFront, Matt Gertz explains that Fox News has been deliberately replacing its so-called “straight news” programming with extremist opinion hosts since the presidential election


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