Fox News’ Pete Hegseth faced backlash on Thursday after he appeared to call on healthy people to “have some courage” to get “out there” and contract the coronavirus in a bid to achieve “herd immunity,” a strategy that has been condemned by leading epidemiologists.
Hegseth, appearing on the “Outnumbered” panel show from what appeared to be his home, said he didn’t like the way in which President Donald Trump had described Americans as “warriors” amid the pandemic. That term was more suited to describe the “guys and gals that risk their life voluntarily to go to the most dangerous places in the world,” he said.
But Hegseth suggested the U.S. would now need that “kind of ethos and that spirit to put freedom before fear” during the public health crisis that has now killed more than 76,000 people nationwide.
“The ‘experts’ have been telling us that hundreds of thousands of people are going to die. Now that we are learning more, herd immunity is our friend,” he argued. “Healthy people getting out there, they are going to have to have some courage. And we’ve seen courage … in Texas, where people are defying ridiculous orders.”
“That spirit, the American spirit, frankly, is in full supply and ready to go if some of our experts and some of our leaders will get out of their way,” Hegseth added. “They are drunk on power. It’s time to open up, that’s my sense.”
Check out the segment here:
Epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins University, however, have previously cautioned against seeking early herd immunity by allowing vast swaths of the population to become infected, describing it as a “dangerous misconception.”
“Without a vaccine, over 200 million Americans would have to get infected before we reach this threshold,” they warned. “Put another way, even if the current pace of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States – with over 25,000 confirmed cases a day – it will be well into 2021 before we reach herd immunity. If current daily death rates continue, over half a million Americans would be dead from COVID-19 by that time.”
Hegseth said in March that the more he learned about COVID-19, the disease caused the virus, “the less there is to worry about.” In 2019, he declared on “Fox & Friends” that “germs are not a real thing” because he can’t see them and that he hasn’t washed his hands for a decade. He later said he was joking.
Fox News has faced considerable blowback over its coverage of the pandemic, with prime-time personalities including Sean Hannity downplaying the threat of the virus for weeks in lockstep with Trump. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last month slammed the network’s “concerted effort” to “peddle dangerous misinformation,” describing it as “coronavirus trutherism.”
Critics of Hegseth’s latest comments accused him of hypocrisy, given how he and the majority of Fox News’ employees in New York City are currently working remotely. They also called him “irresponsible” for appearing to encourage people to break stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
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