First, he dismissed the virus, saying COVID-19 was not nearly as bad as the flu. Now, he’s warning Americans to pay attention to the tragedy unfolding in Italy. Yet he’s also blaming his own shifting attitude on “a totally dishonest left wing news media.”
The former House speaker tweeted:
A reporter asked me today why conservatives were initially so skeptical of the threat of the coronavirus. I tried to explain that one of the dangerous consequences of having a totally dishonest left wing news media was that most Americans discounted their hysteria as phony.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 16, 2020
In reality, the misinformation problem in coronavirus coverage came from Gingrich ― who spent much of February downplaying the threat ― and others in the right-wing media.
Fox Business host Trish Regan claimed the infection was Democrats trying to “create mass hysteria to encourage a market selloff.” As she spoke, the graphic on the screen read: “coronavirus impeachment scam.”
Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed the coronavirus was just a cold.
“I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks,” Limbaugh said last month. Last week, he claimed it was being “exaggerated” and “lied about” in an attempt to make President Donald Trump look bad.
And less than three weeks ago, Gingrich slammed San Francisco for being “irresponsible” because it declared a state of emergency before the city’s first coronavirus case was confirmed:
Newt Gingrich, Feb 27: "The city of San Francisco, in its usual irresponsible way, has already declared an emergency..."
Newt Gingrich, today: "Faced with a pandemic threat, history teaches us it is far better to be over prepared than underprepared."https://t.co/Z3TSqB6eON pic.twitter.com/5oL4U0C95g
— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) March 16, 2020
“Part of what bothers me as historian is, this is much less currently than the flu is every single year,” Gingrich said in a Feb. 26 appearance on Fox Business. “It’s less deadly than the flu is every single year, and the scale of the reaction has been horrendous.”
In a separate appearance on Fox News last month, Gingrich said the biggest threat to the United States wasn’t the virus, but Chinese factories shutting down, which he warned could lead to an economic recession.
“I would worry about that more than I worry about the epidemic,” he told Laura Ingraham.
Gingrich is now urging the United States to take the coronavirus threat seriously, writing in Newsweek that it was “far better to be over-prepared than underprepared.”
Gingrich, who is in Italy ― his wife, Callista Gingrich, is U.S. ambassador to the Holy See ― said the near-shutdown in that country as it grapples with a mounting death toll was “not an overreaction.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.