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Disgraced former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly shrugged off the growing death toll from the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, callously claiming that projected deaths from the virus will be low because those who are currently dying “were on their last legs anyway.”
During a segment on O’Reilly’s former Fox News colleague Sean Hannity’s radio show, Hannity wondered aloud when American life would snap back to normalcy. In recent days, Hannity has focused much of his airtime on calling for a quick reversal of social distancing guidelines in order to restart the American economy.
“I want life back to normal, can you fix that in a simple way?” Hannity quipped.
“Oh man I wish I could, you know?” O’Reilly responded before assuring Hannity that it would happen sooner rather than later.
Claiming that it was “really good for everybody” that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) dropped out of the presidential race—he later suggested it was due to Sanders’ health-care policies—O’Reilly then went on to doubt the virus’ lethality.
“The projections that you just mentioned are down to 60,000,” he said, citing a recent model on projected American deaths through August. “I don't think it will be that high.”
“13,000 dead now in the USA,” he continued. “Many people who are dying, both here and around the world, were on their last legs anyway, and I don't want to sound callous about that.”
Sensing that O’Reilly’s comments would draw immediate outrage, Hannity interjected and let O’Reilly know that he’s “going to get hammered for that.”
“Well, I don't care,” the one-time O’Reilly Factor host fired back. “I mean, a simple man tells the truth.”
Hannity and O’Reilly would then point to the relatively high mortality rates from the virus in Italy and Spain, citing socialized medicine, Europeans’ smoking habits, and the countries’ older populations as reasons so many have succumbed there.
O’Reilly, meanwhile, ended the discussion by predicting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will say that a large percentage of “people who died from the virus, also had other things that killed them.”
The ex-Fox star’s comment echoes those of other right-wing personalities recently who have questioned the death count. Fox News senior analyst Brit Hume, for instance, has repeatedly asserted that the American death toll—which currently stands at over 14,000—is inflated because anyone who dies after contracting COVID-19 is being counted.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, rejected Hume’s argument that coronavirus deaths are being exaggerated due to pre-existing conditions and other causes during the daily coronavirus briefing.
“Those individuals will have an underlying condition, but that underlying condition did not cause their acute death when it’s related to a Covid infection,” she said Wednesday. “In fact, it’s the opposite.”
Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, was far more blunt.
“You will always have conspiracy theories when you have a very challenging public health crisis. They are nothing but distractions,” he declared at the briefing.