Even as Fox News hosts were reportedly telling viewers that the coronavirus pandemic was exaggerated and that public reaction to the disease was an example of “mass hysteria” intended to damage Donald Trump’s reelection chances, the network’s own chair, Rupert Murdoch, purportedly took steps to protect himself from the deadly virus.
According to a New York Times report, Murdoch and his family canceled his own 89th birthday party on March 11, which was set to be a gathering of about 20 people, in order to protect himself from contracting a coronavirus infection. Death rates from the virus among patients over age 80 have reached as high as 20 percent by some estimates.
The Murdochs made the decision to call off the party — which would have been held on Murdoch’s vast estate in Bel Air, California — on March 8, according to Times media columnist Ben Smith. One day later, on the Fox News-affiliated Fox Business network, host Trish Regan slammed the coronavirus response as an “impeachment scam” against Trump.
On March 7, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro told viewers that any report of the virus’s deadly effects “doesn’t reflect reality,” as quoted by Business Insider. On March 9, the network’s star evening host Sean Hannity told his audience that coronavirus was a “hoax,” and the following night he said that the public response to the outbreak was simply a “political weapon” used against Trump.
According to Smith, Murdoch’s own precautions against the deadly disease reveals a “gap” between the “elite, globally minded family owners of Fox” and the network’s own on-air personalities. The Murdoch family “took the crisis seriously as reports emerged in January,” Smith wrote, while at the same time Fox News on-air personalities continued to tell their viewers that the virus was not a serious health threat.
Fox News hosts later changed the tone of their coverage shortly after March 11, as Trump himself appeared to take the outbreak more seriously. But this week, as Vox reported, the network’s coverage took another turn.
As Trump himself suggested Monday that business closings and other measures taken to slow the spread of the virus would soon end, Fox hosts purportedly began to report that deaths of Americans over age 70 would be acceptable as a measure to rebuild the country’s economy. Meanwhile, experts claim the pandemic has not yet reached its worst stage and 138 Americans died from the disease on Monday alone.
Fox News hosts also on Monday reportedly told viewers that untested and potentially harmful drugs could prevent COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus. Hannity appeared to claim that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine would prove effective in fighting coronavirus infection. Later on Monday evening, Fox News host Laura Ingraham also supposedly said that hydroxychloroquine would stop COVID-19.