Fox News anchors fail to challenge Trump as he misleads during coronavirus town hall

President Donald Trump appeared on a Fox News town hall, where he made inaccurate statements about the coronavirus. CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checks the President's claims.

Posted: Mar 25, 2020 12:51 PM
Updated: Mar 25, 2020 12:51 PM

Anchors at Fox News failed to meaningfully challenge President Trump as he repeatedly misled the network's viewers during a virtual town hall on Tuesday, effectively surrendering its airwaves to the President as he even appeared to cite a conspiratorial outlet to argue his case.

While Fox News is known as the home to such pro-Trump hosts as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, Tuesday's town hall was held by Bill Hemmer and Harris Faulkner, two anchors the network bills as members of a supposedly fearless and hard-hitting news division.

But neither Hemmer, who is the chief breaking news anchor at Fox News and was broadcasting from the White House, nor Faulkner, who was broadcasting remotely from a studio, effectively pushed back on Trump during the two-hour event -— despite obvious misinformation peddled by the President.

Trump, for instance, repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu. "We've never closed down the country for the flu," the President said.

Hemmer, however, repeatedly failed to note that Covid-19 has a significantly higher mortality rate than the seasonal flu.

The World Health Organization has estimated the mortality rate to be 3.4%. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, has estimated that it is about 2%. Fauci even previously told Fox News, "The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1% so even if [Covid-19] goes down to 1% it's still 10 times more fatal."

At another point during the interview, Trump said he would "love" for the country to "open by Easter" on April 12.

Instead of challenging Trump, and noting that his deadline is at odds with what many medical professionals and infectious disease experts have said, Faulkner replied, "Oh wow. OK."

Hemmer added, "That would be a great American resurrection."

After being criticized online for his failure to follow up, Hemmer came back from a commercial break and asked Trump the question again: "You'd like to be back to normal by Easter Sunday. That's 19 days from now. Is that true? Is that possible?"

Trump replied to Hemmer, saying he believed it to be possible and once again compared it to the much less serious seasonal flu. Hemmer asked Trump how he could determine it might be safe, and Trump reiterated his belief that the country "has to get back to work."

In one jarring moment, Trump assailed Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who criticized the federal government hours earlier for not sending enough ventilators to the state.

"He should have ordered the ventilators, and he had a choice. He had a chance," Trump said.

"Because right here, I just got this out," he added, reading from a piece of paper. "That he refused to order 15,000 ventilators. I will show this to Bill."

The article Trump read to Hemmer -— and the Fox News audience at large — appeared to be from the Gateway Pundit, a fringe outlet with a long history of peddling right-wing conspiracy theories.

"NY Gov. Cuomo Rejected Buying Recommended 16,000 Ventilators in 2015 for Pandemic, Established Death Panels and Lottery Instead," was the headline Trump read aloud, the same as one posted on the Gateway Pundit's website Sunday.

"He shouldn't be talking about us," Trump then said. "He's supposed to be buying his own ventilators."

Hemmer did not challenge Trump -- on either the source of the information or Trump's suggestion that the federal government doesn't bear any responsibility for providing ventilators given that Cuomo could have made the purchase nearly five years before the coronavirus outbreak.

A Fox News spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Fox News has only recently started to take the coronavirus more seriously. For weeks, top hosts and personalities on the network downplayed the coronavirus. Personalities — such as Hannity Ingraham — told their audiences that news coverage of the virus was aimed at hurting Trump politically.

The often-dismissive messaging from Fox News hosts was notable, given that the viewers who make up the network's audience skew older and are thus more vulnerable to the disease.

Polls from both Gallup and Pew Research revealed that Republicans — who are largely distrustful of mainstream news organizations and primarily turn to Fox News and other right-wing sources for information on current events — were much less likely to take the risks of the coronavirus as seriously as their Democratic counterparts.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
Shelby744
Logan711
Ashland672
Carroll673
Fulton670
Scioto670
Wyandot635
Brown611
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland501
Van Wert471
Perry441
Seneca412
Henry330
Paulding300
Jackson280
Pike280
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
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