Laura Ingraham wants you to have the unrestricted freedom to spread or die from the coronavirus.
Over the past several months, Fox News has been an important platform for those seeking to mock expert opinions on the virus, downplay the outbreak’s lethality, and spread anecdotal claims about how to fight it. All seemingly in the service of either absolving President Trump of any potential responsibility for the pandemic’s U.S. toll or to fulfill the network’s single-note, decades-long crusade to blame anything and everything on Democrats and “the media.”
But few personalities have approached the global pandemic with as little concern as Ingraham, the longtime conservative pundit with a coveted primetime Fox News spot and one of the most-viewed shows on the network. In front of an audience of millions every evening, Ingraham has displayed a commitment to dismissing concerns about the virus, mocking advice from doctors she disagrees with, and waving away the importance of coronavirus deaths.
As COVID-19 kills thousands across the country each day, the Fox News anchor has demanded a “reopening” of the economy at the start of next month, despite numerous warnings from top public health experts about the risks of leaving quarantine mode too early.
“At some point, the president is going to have to look at Drs. Fauci and Birx and say, we’re opening on May 1,” she wrote in a tweet on Wednesday. “Give me your best guidance on protocols, but we cannot deny our people their basic freedoms any longer.”
Late last month, she railed against doctors, saying they should not dictate government health policy and arguing that opening up the economy was more important than the life-saving measures medical professionals had recommended.
“You got to imagine the policymakers at some point will hear from the people who are suffering with these job losses in these businesses and say, you know, ‘We have lives as well, and we have to somehow preserve them,’” Ingraham said.
Ingraham did identify the obvious—the projections and advice from public health officials have occasionally shifted. But rather than approaching the topic cautiously on her show, or evaluate how our own drastic measures have curtailed the spread of the virus, she has impatiently drawn the conclusion that any number of deaths below a catastrophic 100,000 is a sign that experts ought to be ignored in favor of a robust economic return (when that, too, seems highly unlikely).
Earlier this month, the Fox News star questioned the social-distancing decisions that have slowed down the economy, noting that “hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year from horrific things.” And during one Tuesday evening segment, Ingraham declared that although she believed that “every life matters,” the U.S. may be too overzealous in its social-distancing measures.
“It is worth asking, is it not, what would our response have been and would our response have been less damaging to the economy, and to the lives of all of you millions of Americans, if we had had more accurate models from the start?” she said. “And shouldn’t this experience make us less willing to rely on the same experts to help determine when and how we should reopen our economy?”
Indeed, there has been a theme for Ingraham. Loss of life, overcrowded hospitals, and an unnecessarily prolonged pandemic are of seemingly little concern.
Instead, the virus has been just another excuse to beat up on the show’s recurring punching bags: media and Democrats. In early March, Ingraham compared virus fears from both groups to impeachment and the special investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying such concerns were merely attempts to “stoke panic” and undermine Trump. At the time, she didn’t have much to say about actual coronavirus deaths, but she did have plenty to say about an imaginary universe in which Hillary Clinton was president and the virus would have been a “nightmare.”
Perhaps sensing the urgency of the outbreak last month, network brass seemingly attempted to crack down on such outrageous coverage, benching and eventually parting ways with Fox Business Network primetime host Trish Regan after she declared coronavirus fears to be an “impeachment scam.”
But Regan’s bonkers monologue was delivered to a substantially smaller audience than the three-million nightly viewers Ingraham has enjoyed during the crisis. And Ingraham’s campaign of disinformation and obfuscation has been far more sustained and, at every step, directly flown in the face of not just public-health expertise but the guidelines set forth by her own bosses.
Even after much of the U.S. began to shut down to fight the virus’ spread, and Fox News brass advised network staff to work from home and banned non-essential business travel, Ingraham tweeted that it was actually a “great time to fly if not in at-risk population.” (She deleted the tweet days later without any explanation).
A number of Fox News employees in New York and D.C.—including Fox & Friends Weekend host Jedediah Bila, and one woman whose family said she had to be intubated—have also tested positive for the virus and, according to New York Times media columnist Ben Smith, several of Ingraham’s own staffers have been quarantined with suspected COVID-19 cases.
And yet, even as the virus hits closer to home, Ingraham’s concerns could hardly be less disdainful. Despite a number of journalists having died from the virus, and many more having lost their jobs as a direct result of the resultant economic slowdown, Ingraham has fallen back on one of the laziest tropes of right-wing punditry by claiming the “liberal media” is rooting for death.
“They like this crisis point and they really don’t want things to go back to normal, and that a lot of them seem—as the news comes in that might be slightly better than we thought, they’re angrier and grumpier than they should be,” Ingraham said earlier this month, with no recognition of the mourning many news organizations have already had for current and former colleagues who’ve died from the virus. “It’s odd.”
Instead of reflecting on her potentially life-threatening advice, Ingraham has only doubled down and, in recent days, settled on a new bogeyman for her audience: egghead doctors with their cautious statements, models, projections, and warnings about the virus.
Despite medical experts like Dr. Fauci urging Fox News hosts to be “careful” when touting hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure, Ingraham has taken up the mantle of the drug’s most public booster, at one point privately urging the president to promote it.
On multiple occasions, she misrepresented the credentials of a doctor to boost his anecdotal claim of the drug giving one patient a “Lazarus”-like resurrection at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. The doctor does not actually work at that hospital, and while Fox News quietly buried a digital correction to her claim, Twitter eventually forced her to delete her post on the matter.
On Monday afternoon, former Harvard Medical professor and renowned HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. William Haseltine complained to Ingraham’s colleague Dana Perino that it is “irresponsible” and “sad to me that people were promoting that drug” which, “at very best… will have a very mild effect on changing the course of the disease, if it has any effect at all.”
In return, on her Tuesday show, Ingraham mocked the doctor, calling his logic “disgusting.” The Fox primetime star further ranted against medical experts who have preached caution on miracle cures, claiming that their objections are “merely partisan attacks in disguise.” In Ingraham’s mind, any doctor who disagrees with her is merely trying to attack President Trump.
“I see right through their motives.”
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