This comes as no surprise at all.
It’s another one of those Trump Era realities best described as unsurprising but nevertheless shocking.
Three serious research efforts have put numerical weight — yes, data-driven evidence — behind what many suspected all along: Americans who relied on Fox News, or similar right-wing sources, were duped as the coronavirus began its deadly spread.
The studies “paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others,” wrote my colleague Christopher Ingraham in an analysis last week.
Here’s the reality, now backed by numbers:
Those who relied on mainstream sources — the network evening newscasts or national newspapers that President Trump constantly blasts as “fake news” — got an accurate assessment of the pandemic’s risks. Those were the news consumers who were more likely to respond accordingly, protecting themselves and others against the disease that has now killed more than 123,000 in the United States with no end in sight.
Those who relied on Fox or, say, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, came to believe that vitamin C was a possible remedy, that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, and that government health agencies were exaggerating the dangers in the hopes of damaging Trump politically, a survey showed.
“That’s the real evil of this type of programming,” Arthur West of the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, which sued Fox News in April over its coronavirus coverage, told the Times of San Diego, a news website. “We believe it delayed and interfered with a prompt and adequate response to this coronavirus pandemic.” (A Fox News lawyer called the suit “wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law,” and said it would be defended vigorously; a judge dismissed the suit in May.)
Beyond the risks the general public faces from consuming this nonsense and misinformation, there’s the fact that the president himself has been picking up these same ideas and using them to steer policy. Instead of tapping experts in the medical and scientific community — many of whom are on the government payroll — he has chosen to educate himself by watching right-wing news outlets.
Not only that, those who believed the lies or disregarded the truth have been attacking — literally — people wearing masks and businesses that are enforcing the CDC guidelines for social distancing. So they’re not only endangering themselves, they’re threatening the lives of other people.
It’s one thing to have a media outlet spew lies and disinformation; there’s not a lot that we can do to stop that, and the Constitution is pretty clear about that. But to have the people who have sworn an oath to be responsible for the health and welfare of the people of this country not only go along with them but actually feed the lies is willfully negligent and criminal.