A noteworthy shift from Friday. They took heat last week (from me, among many others) for the complacency about the crisis being shown by some hosts. Not all hosts: Tucker Carlson, for instance, has not only been warning viewers that this is much more serious than the flu, he reportedly went to Mar-a-Lago personally to try to convince Trump that the situation is dire. But Ainsley Earhardt and Laura Ingraham each assured people in the last few days that flying’s just fine if you’re not in “at-risk” population — even though we’re all vectors for the at-risk population — and Jerry Falwell Jr was heard mumbling something on air about how this is probably a North Korean bioweapon but we shouldn’t “overreact” to it.
Today the message is different. A la Anthony Fauci, Fox viewers are now being told that overreaction is better than underreaction. Watch Dr. Nicole Saphier make the point in a panel discussion with two other MDs this morning:
— America’s Newsroom (@AmericaNewsroom) March 16, 2020
Saphier has been all over the network today. She was a guest on the show above. Then she joined Harris Faulkner and Marc Siegel for a special Q&A on coronavirus in an “overtime” episode of the show. Earlier she turned up at the “Fox & Friends” anchor desk(!), seemingly as a substitute for Earhardt, to help guide the discussion as Newt Gingrich relayed his observations of how bad the situation is in Italy.
Yesterday she was online fact-checking trusted MAGA sources like Devin Nunes when they took to offering terrible, idiotic advice:
Please don’t. https://t.co/EJG5kiX90i
— Nicole Saphier, MD (@NBSaphierMD) March 15, 2020
I’m curious to see if her presence on the air this week and in the next few weeks is as heavy as it was today, including in primetime, to try to undo weeks of “everything’s under control” messaging from Trump. The president’s political interests and the public health interest have now finally aligned, making emphatic messaging about countermeasures an easy call for his favorite network. It’s not just good medical advice to act now, today, to try to slow down the spread of this disease, it’s good political advice. Trump surely understands at this point that a second term depends on a relatively successful resolution to the epidemic and ensuing economic recovery. The more Fox viewers carry on with business as usual, the less successful that resolution is going to be. For his sake, and of course for their own sake (especially given the average age of Fox-watchers), it’s distancing time. We’ll see how Hannity and Ingraham play it tonight at 9.
It’s not just Fox either. As recently as five days ago, Rush Limbaugh was still comparing COVID-19 to the common cold. It isn’t, and it especially isn’t for a 69-year-old man whose immune system is battling what Rush’s is battling right now. Today guest host Mark Steyn apparently reality-checked listeners:
Limbaugh isn’t broadcasting today. His guest host, Mark Steyn, issues a wake-up call to the audience on the dangers of coronavirus: “If you don’t believe me on this, Trump’s surgeon general said we’re 2 weeks behind Italy.”
— Jeremy W. Peters (@jwpetersNYT) March 16, 2020
Even Trump himself sounded much different about the virus than he did a few weeks ago when he answered some questions about it this afternoon:
— Josh Margolin (@JoshMargolin) March 16, 2020
Dave Wasserman tweeted yesterday, “Until the president himself treats this as a public health crisis & not just an economic one – and emphasizes staying home, as many GOP govs have done – Americans who trust him are not going to take social distancing seriously, with potentially catastrophic implications.” He’s treating it as a health crisis now. So is Fox, more so than ever.