The extra-large pack of journalists who equate liberalism and professionalism in their work cannot stand that Fox News exists. They believe everything elected Republicans do should be “fact-checked” and routinely punished. For Democrats, the elite media offer damage control; for Republicans, only damage.
The onset of the novel coronavirus is simply another occasion for the usual routine. The liberal media are prosecuting Fox for supposedly shoving Americans off a coronavirus cliff with misinformation. They’re also equating misinformation with the argument that the pandemic gave them a new rationale to cripple President Donald Trump politically.
The latter is not misinformation. It’s rock-solid, bank-on-it information.
Yes, the president and the conservative media were suspicious of all the worst-case scenarios and expressed skepticism about the threat. Many of us were initially reluctant to be dragged into a massive government intervention. Then Italy happened.
Ben Smith, the brand-new media columnist for The New York Times, is openly prosecuting Fox for deaths caused by the coronavirus. Smith asked Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Public Health Institute, whether he “believes people will die because of Fox’s coverage.” Jha said yes. “Some commentators in the right-wing media spread a very specific type of misinformation that I think has been very harmful,” he said.
Then Smith noted that Fox has been compared to a virus, quoting Bill Kristol, who was on Fox until 2012. “People act like Fox is a virus — beyond our control,” said Kristol. “There are people who run it, who have responsibility for it, and they could be held accountable.”
Kristol is a gentleman compared to Eric Boehlert, a leftist regular on the badly named program "AM Joy." He shamelessly claimed: "Fox News has been getting people killed for years. I mean just look at their crusade against affordable health care, their crusade against expanding Medicaid. This is not unusual for them. ... (T)hey are a cancer on this country." No one is "fact-checking" that statement.
So where do we go from here? Trump suggested that perhaps the country could ease up on the social distancing restrictions by Easter Sunday. That caused another wave of rage aimed at Trump and his Fox "feedback loop."
But the media recognize, even at The New York Times, the reality that federal and state governments have to balance the nation's overall health with the nation's economy. They don't trust Trump. They trust Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose coronavirus briefings are hailed by The Times as "communal therapy sessions." Whenever Cuomo thinks we can relax, the media will declare relaxation is the responsible, nonpartisan solution.
Cuomo has said: "I take total responsibility for shutting off the economy in terms of essential workers. But, we also have to start to plan the pivot back to economic functionality, right? You can't stop the economy forever. So we have to start to think about, 'Does everyone stay out of work?'"
On The Times podcast, "The Daily," reporter Maggie Haberman discussed at length how Fox News is warping Trump's response to the coronavirus. She admitted, "in fairness to him, Gov. Cuomo has openly voiced the same moral dilemma that he is wrestling with." But Haberman implied that Cuomo's moral stand is superior: "It's just that Gov. Cuomo came down on the other side of it, which was that there is no cost that can be put on human life."
Liberal scribes love the noble-sounding ideological extreme "no cost can be put on human life." It's like they've never observed the way a socialist health care system mercilessly rations care and decides some lives aren't worth extending. But they'll just keep lamenting that the country's well of information is poisoned by the news channel they pretend is the only ideologically polarized one.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.