Donald Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus crisis is causing a crisis of its own at Fox News and other right-wing media outlets that have long parroted the president or explained away his many gaffs.
Trump’s serious mishandling of the crisis was glaringly evidenced over the weekend when he pronounced that the outbreak was “perfectly under control,” and predicted infectious cases would peak at 15 and start to decline.
But as so often been the case, the truth was exactly the opposite. The number of cases is growing across the country and deaths are rising.
The president’s misstatements created a dilemma for Fox and other sycophantic news outlets. If they simply parroted the president’s statements they would not only be doing their viewers a disservice, but also potentially making the outbreak worse by causing people to brush off precautions.
The coronavirus outbreak has brought out the worst in the president’s dissembling and narcissism.
Who is this CRAZY CONSPIRACY WITCH??? All the FAR RIGHT can HOPE for, is to SCARE THE LIVING HELL out of its VOTERS so they vote for TRUMP!!! FOX NEWS LIES, LIES, & LIES!!! Russian Propaganda TV
— David Ward (@surferdave1966) March 10, 2020
At a news conference with doctors and scientists at the Centers for Disease Control, Trump actually compared coronavirus test kits to his telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Forget the fact that the call led to his impeachment.
“This is the first crisis of Trump’s presidency that he did not cause himself, and he is shankin’ it,” said late night comedian Stephen Colbert. “Instead of monitoring the situation, Trump spent the weekend golfing.”
Trump’s delusional response included claims that he was well-equipped to handle the crisis because an uncle was a professor at MIT.
“I like this stuff, I really get it. People are surprised that I really get it,” he said.
But he clearly wasn’t getting it and Fox News pundits were clearly unnerved.
Tucker Carlson, one of the president’s leading sycophants, could no longer deny the truth.
He contradicted both the president and other Fox News pundits, who had been downplaying the outbreak. He called the epidemic a “very serious problem.”
Fox pundits insisted repeatedly that Democrats and the media were overstating and sensationalizing the virus threat in an attempt to hurt Trump politically ahead of the 2020 election.
Talking head Trish Regan illustrated the depth of Fox News’s sycophancy. She decried what she claimed was a Democratic effort to “politicize” the crisis with a rant that was clearly intended to weaponize the crisis politically.
“This is just another attempt to impeach the president,” she claimed. “And, sadly they care very little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake.
“The hate is boiling over,” she continued. “Many in the liberal media are using, and I mean using, coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president.”
Regan’s remarks touched off a firestorm on social media.
“Who is this CRAZY CONSPIRACY WITCH??? All the FAR RIGHT can HOPE for, is to SCARE THE LIVING HELL out of its VOTERS so they vote for TRUMP!!! FOX NEWS LIES, LIES, & LIES!!! Russian Propaganda TV,” wrote one commenter
Trump compared the virus to the “common flu” while insisting the “Fake News” was stoking unwarranted fears to tank the market.
But Carlson wasn’t buying it.
“People you trust, people you probably voted for, have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,” he said.
“‘It’s just partisan politics,’ they say. ‘Calm down. In the end this was just like the flu and people die from that every year. Coronavirus will pass. And when it does, we will feel foolish for worrying about it.’ That’s their position.
“Maybe they believe they are serving some higher cause by shading reality,” he added. But he made clear the crisis was a “major event” far worse than seasonal flu.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman saw parallels in the Republican response to coronavirus and the 2008 financial meltdown.
“Trump’s luridly delusional response to the coronavirus and his conspiracy theorizing about Democrats and the news media aren’t really that different from the way the right dealt with the financial crisis a dozen years ago,” he wrote in The New York Times.
“True, last time the crazy talk wasn’t coming directly from the president of the United States. But that’s not the important distinction between then and now. No, what’s different now is that denial and the resulting delay are likely to have deadly consequences.”
Even the hard-right National Review took on the president. “So far in this crisis, Donald Trump himself has obviously failed to rise to the challenge of leadership, and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.”
Trump’s failure to grasp the severity of the crisis is being exacerbated by his right-wing echo chamber, costing precious time and delaying widespread testing.
If anything, the crisis has amplified Trump’s intellectual and emotional bankruptcy at a time when the nation can afford neither.
The coronavirus crisis is a cold, hard reality that can’t be explained away as a left-wing conspiracy or fake news.
To his credit, Carlson dropped all pretense.
“Our country is likely to experience a painful period we are powerless to stop,” he said. “You shouldn’t panic. In crisis, it’s more important than ever to be calm.”
“Staying calm is not the same as remaining complacent,” he added.
“It does not mean assuring people that everything will be fine. We don’t know that. Instead, it’s better to tell the truth. That is always the surest sign of strength. As they level with us, our leaders ought to prepare the public for what may come next.”