Fox News hit viewers with an "avalanche of misinformation" in its weekday coverage of the coronavirus crisis from July 6 through 10, according to a national media watchdog group that documented at least 253 instances of the network's coverage undermining science, politicizing the pandemic, emphasizing economic issues, and promoting other lies or problematic positions in those five days alone.
Media Matters for America (MMFA) noted in a statement that its new analysis released Thursday follows Yahoo News reporting from earlier this month which claims that Fox News' messaging on Covid-19 was undergoing a "remarkable turn" from its earlier coverage to "acknowledge ... that the coronavirus is a far graver threat."
In contrast with the kind of shift reported by Yahoo, MMFA revealed that:
- Nearly half of Fox's coronavirus misinformation was about the science of coronavirus and health recommendations from experts (115 instances).
- Fox politicized recommended public health measures, such as face masks usage and business closures, 63 times.
- Fox emphasized the economy and reopening schools 46 times despite public health concerns.
- Fox's "The Ingraham Angle" was responsible for a quarter of all coronavirus misinformation on the network.
- Fox's "straight news" shows accounted for more than one-third of all coronavirus misinformation.
"Fox host Laura Ingraham and her prime-time show 'The Ingraham Angle' traded in coronavirus misinformation far more often than other Fox personalities and shows during the week of July 6," MMFA research analyst Rob Savillo explains in the report.
"Ingraham herself pushed coronavirus misinformation 38 times, which included 21 instances of undermining and misrepresenting the science on the coronavirus and 13 instances of politicizing the response to the pandemic," he continues. "Fox personalities and guests on 'The Ingraham Angle' were responsible for an astonishing 63 instances of misinformation."
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— Media Matters (@mmfa) July 16, 2020
The MMFA report features multiple videos of the network's Covid-19 coverage, including this July 8 clip from "Fox & Friends," which ranked second after Igraham's show in terms of misinformation during the analyzed period:
"Fox has argued against stay-at-home orders and business closures even though evidence shows that shutdowns likely averted up to 60 million infections in the U.S.," Savillo points out. "The network at times even continues to argue against the efficacy of wearing masks, with host Tucker Carlson claiming 'there is no evidence' that masks help stop the spread of the coronavirus. This explicitly goes against the World Health Organization’s and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations of mask use for the general public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus."
Citing six polls that have shown Fox viewers "are woefully —and dangerously—misinformed regarding the coronavirus," Savillio says that "these recent events illustrate the real-world consequences of Fox's continued broadcasting of coronavirus misinformation that downplays the threat of the virus, dismisses the recommendations of public health officials, and misrepresents the scientific consensus on the disease."
Major corporations including Amazon, Kraft Heinz, Pzifer, and Verizon are leading sponsors of the network's shows, "and as a result helped fund Fox News' disinformation effort to undermine public health and help President Trump's reelection chances," according to MMFA's statement announcing the report. "They all advertised on the network multiple times in July."