The U.S. is still struggling to cope with the coronavirus outbreak after its initially sluggish and dismissive response. There are now 32,000 Americans who have tested positive for the virus, and epidemiologists suspect the real number may be 10 times higher, since getting the test is all but impossible unless you have symptoms and appear dangerously ill already. (Or if you have money and connections—Kentucky senator Rand Paul announced Sunday he had tested positive for Covid-19, even though he wasn&apost showing any symptoms.)
While many city and state officials are now issuing "shelter in place" orders, essentially asking people to leave home as little as possible, many workplaces have been trying to minimize risk themselves. At Fox News&aposs headquarters, Chief Executive Suzanne Scott had hand-sanitizing stations installed and the offices disinfected, and even canceled a major ad sales event, according to The New York Times. Scott ordered the new measures in late February, almost a month after the first U.S. case was confirmed. Unfortunately, those measures haven&apost insulated the offices enough. Per the Times:
On Saturday night, Ms. Scott sent another memo to the company’s rattled staff: The fourth case of coronavirus had been reported in Fox News’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. "We are continuing to take every necessary precaution and to follow every protocol which includes deep cleaning all surfaces these employees were in contact with, in addition to the daily sanitizing and disinfecting that has been performed multiple times a day throughout all areas of the building."
While Scott was rushing to minimize the risk in the Fox News offices, though, the network&aposs anchors were downplaying the danger of the pandemic—even after the director-general of the World Health Organization warned governments it was "not a drill," as confirmed global cases hit 100,000 in early March. Many of them mirrored Donald Trump&aposs talking points, claiming the coronavirus wasn&apost a serious issue and that it was simply Democrats trying to smear the president. On March 7, weeks after Scott started implementing coronavirus precautions in Fox News&aposs New York offices, Jeanine Pirro claimed, "All the talk about coronavirus being so deadly doesn&apost reflect reality." During a March 8 episode of Fox & Friends, cohost Pete Hegseth likewise shrugged it off: "The more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about." Laura Ingraham fumed, "It is absolutely disgusting that Democrats are seeking to use this complex virus to score cheap political points." Sean Hannity made the same point, saying, "I&aposm going to call out anyone and everyone who&aposs using this virus as a political weapon against the president." Many of these hosts pivoted hard in a matter of days, and The Washington Post compiled footage of them delivering conflicting remarks about the severity of the outbreak.
Those anchors and the Trump administration started taking the outbreak seriously around the same time, when the president so badly botched his attempts to calm investors that he tanked the stock market. The messaging from the network and the White House has remained in sync. Republicans and Trump officials have insisted on calling Covid-19 the "China virus," and Trump has tried to lay the blame on China for the spread of the disease in the U.S. Fox is using the same reasoning, promoting Republicans like Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw and Florida senator Marco Rubio when they make comments criticizing China for how it handled the initial outbreak.
On Sunday, Fox News host Steve Hilton complained about Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, saying that the appropriate measures for fighting the outbreak will look like an overreaction—if the measures work, then they&aposll prevent the outbreak from being as big a disaster as possible. Hilton said that an economic shutdown to prevent millions of people from dying was an example of the cure being "worse than the disease." Hours later, Trump tweeted in all caps, "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF." Of course, it&aposs harder to have a roaring economy when your hospitals are overwhelmed, and more citizens are sick or dead.
Originally Appeared on GQ