A letter signed by dozens of journalism professors and working journalists is calling out Fox News for what they call “misleading” coverage of the coronavirus crisis.
The right-leaning news network has been criticized for apparent efforts to downplay the severity of the virus outbreak in its early days, echoing initial statements from President Donald Trump predicting that the outbreak would soon be over in the United States. As the virus has continued to spread and the number of total cases in the U.S. topped 275,000 on Friday, Fox News has shifted along with Trump in covering it more seriously.
But a letter from leading journalism professors and journalists said that the damage may have already been done. As The Hill reported, the letter sent to network heads Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch this week claimed that Fox News created a “danger to public health” by downplaying the virus and reporting on untested drugs.
“Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network—false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities,” the letter reads.
The letter went on to note that a Pew Research survey showed that 79 percent of Fox News viewers believed that the media was overstating the dangers of the virus and its ability to spread.
Many Fox News anchors have been criticized for their statements downplaying the virus itself and making what critics see as misleading comparisons. As The Inquisitr reported, Fox Business anchor Trish Regan called the coronavirus crisis an “impeachment scam” and said that Democrats were seizing on the outbreak in order to “demonize and destroy” the president.
The network later pulled Regan’s primetime show off the air along with others, part of a restructuring to devote more time to news coverage of the outbreak. Regan later announced that she was leaving the network.
The letter from the journalism professionals called out some Fox News hosts by name, including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Though Carlson has adopted a more serious tone and called for stringent measures to combat the virus, he has also reported on an unproven malarial treatment that had shown some promise in patients, but which medical experts said was not properly tested. Trump later touted that treatment as a “game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus.