Fox News host Tucker Carlson broke from his network’s pattern of downplaying the coronavirus outbreak, criticizing on Monday those who “have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem.”
“‘It’s just partisan politics,’ they say. ‘Calm down. In the end, this is just like the flu,’” Carlson said on his show. “It’s definitely not just the flu.”
The far-right host began the segment pushing his notoriously racist perspectives, calling the outbreak “the Chinese coronavirus” and attacking people for considering it racist to blame China for the United States’ poor handling of the outbreak. Monday was not the first time that Carlson placed racist labels on COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
But in what appeared to be an indirect but not very subtle jab at President Donald Trump, Carlson then criticized “the other side” for not being helpful in a time of nationwide panic.
“People you trust, people you probably voted for, have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,” Carlson said. “Though these people have good intentions as they say this, many of them anyway ― they may not know any better, maybe they’re just not paying attention or maybe they believe they’re serving some higher cause by shading reality ― and there’s an election coming up, [think it’s] best not to say anything that might help the other side. We get it, but they’re wrong.”
Fox News has consistently downplayed the severity of the coronavirus, aligning itself with the president’s position on the deadly outbreak that has caused global panic. Fox News host Sean Hannity had Trump on his show last week, when the president said COVID-19 is not a big deal, intentionally understated the World Health Organization’s estimate of the virus’s death rate (3.4%) based on his “hunch” and implied that it’s OK for people infected with the virus to go to work.
The network continued to push misinformation after Hannity’s Trump interview, with news anchor Shannon Bream positioning the president’s lies as a critique of mainstream media and then interviewing Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who minimized the outbreak’s severity.
The White House said Monday that there are now more than 500 confirmed coronavirus cases in 35 states and the District of Columbia but stressed that the risk to the American public was low. At a news conference, Trump teased measures meant to ease economic fears that led to Wall Street’s worst day in a decade.
But Carlson said Monday night that “tax cuts and lower rates won’t reopen factories that have shut down to contain the virus.”
“Our country is likely to experience a painful period we are powerless to stop. None of this is justification to panic, we shouldn’t panic. In crisis it’s more important than ever to be calm,” he said.
“But staying calm is not the same as remaining complacent and does not mean assuring people that everything will be fine. We don’t know that,” Carlson continued. “Instead it’s better to tell the truth. That is always the surest sign of strength.”