Fox News puts millions of Americans at risk for misinformation

News network’s coronavirus misinformation causes many U.S. citizens to not take virus seriously

By Bryan Ruiz

The novel COVID-19 has caused the deaths of more than 190,000 people around the world, according to Worldometer. There’s no doubt the virus has taken the world by surprise and thus requires large mitigation measures to control it. However, one country in particular has been unsuccessful in trying to contain the virus: the U.S. 

Worse so, there are many Americans have not been taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the virus. The lack of seriousness felt during the pandemic in the U.S. can be traced to a source that many people in the U.S. rely on. A source that, according to its own official website, has an average of 3.5 million primetime viewers. The source is none other than Fox News. 

Illustration by Bryan Ruiz
Fox News’s fake news gives a false sense of security to millions of Americans who are at risk of contracting coronavirus.

Fox News has provided news for the U.S. since 1996, so it makes sense that a number of people rely on it, especially now during a pandemic. 

However, what happens when a source that is has been deemed “reliable” broadcasts news that is fake and untrue? One of the segments, “The Sean Hannity Show,” is one of the most popular on the network, averaging a “total audience of 3.5 million viewers,” according to Forbes

Unfortunately, these viewers were all misinformed on March 9 by Hannity himself when he expressed his opinion about the coronavirus during his segment.

“[the virus is] scaring the living hell out of people,” Hannity said, “and I see it again, as … let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” 

By referring to the coronavirus as a “hoax,” Hannity gave his millions of viewers a false sense of security. We all know now the coronavirus is most definitely not a hoax. However, at the time it was stated, Hannity’s words put millions of viewers at risk of misinformation by dismissing the fact the virus is real and should be taken seriously.

What’s worse is that was not an isolated incident. This type of misinformation occurred multiple times on Fox News. On March 8, Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News medical contributor, claimed that “this virus should be compared to the flu because at worst-case scenario, it could be the flu.” 

As of now, the virus has been confirmed to be much worse than the flu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed this virus is at least ten times “more lethal” than the flu. Not only did Fox News misinform its viewers by saying the new virus was not as bad as the flu, they put millions of people at risk by refusing to acknowledge the severity of the virus and downplaying the needed urgency. 

Though Siegel did not directly go against what Fauci said, another Fox News host did. Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in “Justice with Judge Jeanine” said: “All the talk about the coronavirus being so much more deadly doesn’t reflect reality.”

Her statement goes directly against what Fauci said. Instead of acknowledging the facts, Pirro provided her own opinion. Though now we know this information is false, viewers at the time may have likely believed what Hannity, Siegel and Pirro have imparted, causing millions of its viewers to not take the virus seriously. 

As much as Fox News dismissed the virus, another Fox News reporter brought forth a strong accusation against the virus. Tish Regan, one of the Fox News hosts, went on to claim the virus was “yet another attempt to impeach the president.” 

Not only did Fox News claim the virus was a hoax and almost equivalent to the flu, they also went on to involve politics. The problem of leveraging partisanship against facts is that it makes someone less inclined to listen to warnings about the coronavirus if they think the warnings are meant to go against a figure they support, such as the president.

For example, if someone who supported Trump heard this virus was meant as a political attack against him, they would be more inclined to dismiss the virus as an actual threat. The actions of heralded Fox New reporters have misled its 3.5 million viewers.

What hurts most is, according to The Hill newspaper, the average age for Fox News viewers is 65. And, according to a Pew Research poll, around 79 percent of Fox News viewers said the media was over-exaggerating about the virus. 

According to the official website of the CDC, those who are 65 years and older are at high risk of severe illness from the virus. Also, a lot of elderly people have underlying medical conditions.

The CDC also states that those with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, diabetes, severe heart conditions, and other illnesses are also at high risk. If a person over 65 years old with underlying health conditions were to contract the virus, they would almost certainly die. If the ones who are most at risk do not take the virus seriously, then the results are catastrophic. 

According to Worldometer, there are more than 1 million cases in the United States right now. This puts the United States at the forefront of the most coronavirus cases in the world — more than 300,000 cases than Spain, which has the second-highest number of cases. 

According to Newsweek, the virus has now become the number one cause of death. Despite the death toll rising, many Americans continue to go outside without taking the recommended measures, oblivious to the situation that is in front of them. Many continue to ignore the shelter-in-place order and the recommended use of masks.

The purpose of the shelter-in-place is to stop an inadvertent spread of the virus. According to healthessentials, someone may be a carrier of the virus even though they don’t show any symptoms. Someone may believe they are not sick and still spread the virus without realizing it.

The shelter-in-place order was put in place to stop situations like this. The recommendation of masks is also meant to slow the spread of the virus, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, these protective measures are being ignored by many who have been fed misinformation from “trusted” news sources like Fox News, which has put millions at risk.

And now the ignorance of some may have inadvertently caused the deaths of thousands.