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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 11:51 AM
Updated: Mar 25, 2020 11:51 AM

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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 56560

Reported Deaths: 1656
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18009819
Ramsey6944261
Dakota3991103
Anoka3365113
Stearns283120
Washington191743
Nobles17466
Olmsted162923
Scott139014
Mower10812
Rice9998
Blue Earth8525
Wright8135
Carver7792
Clay74540
Kandiyohi6761
Sherburne6497
St. Louis43619
Todd4202
Lyon4163
Freeborn3541
Steele3301
Nicollet31213
Benton3063
Watonwan2980
Winona24716
Crow Wing21313
Martin2045
Le Sueur2011
Beltrami1930
Chisago1791
Goodhue1768
Otter Tail1763
Cottonwood1710
Becker1431
Pipestone1439
Unassigned14040
McLeod1380
Itasca13212
Polk1313
Douglas1300
Waseca1280
Pine1270
Carlton1250
Dodge1230
Murray1221
Isanti1100
Chippewa981
Brown852
Faribault830
Meeker832
Morrison831
Wabasha810
Sibley792
Koochiching743
Rock740
Pennington721
Jackson700
Mille Lacs653
Fillmore610
Renville595
Cass582
Lincoln540
Swift521
Grant491
Yellow Medicine490
Roseau460
Pope430
Houston390
Norman340
Redwood300
Kanabec291
Hubbard280
Marshall280
Wilkin283
Aitkin270
Mahnomen231
Wadena230
Big Stone220
Red Lake200
Lake180
Clearwater150
Stevens150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson40
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 45774

Reported Deaths: 883
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk9723203
Woodbury365151
Black Hawk300362
Linn210887
Johnson193315
Dallas178935
Buena Vista178512
Scott159312
Dubuque153729
Marshall138924
Pottawattamie121723
Story110914
Wapello84932
Muscatine82648
Webster7255
Crawford7193
Sioux5952
Cerro Gordo57617
Tama53729
Warren5281
Jasper45524
Plymouth4438
Wright4431
Louisa37914
Dickinson3754
Clinton3173
Washington28710
Hamilton2411
Boone2282
Franklin2205
Bremer1877
Clarke1863
Carroll1811
Emmet1791
Clay1711
Hardin1650
Shelby1611
Marion1530
Allamakee1514
Poweshiek1468
Benton1431
Jackson1411
Des Moines1392
Mahaska13617
Floyd1292
Guthrie1265
Jones1242
Cedar1201
Hancock1172
Butler1142
Henry1133
Pocahontas1131
Buchanan1111
Lyon1020
Madison1022
Clayton983
Cherokee971
Harrison970
Lee953
Taylor930
Humboldt921
Delaware901
Monona900
Iowa891
Winneshiek851
Calhoun822
Mills820
Fayette810
Sac810
Palo Alto790
Kossuth780
Jefferson770
Osceola770
Mitchell760
Page760
Winnebago760
Grundy741
Union701
Monroe677
Worth610
Chickasaw510
Cass481
Davis481
Howard480
Lucas454
Montgomery433
Appanoose423
Greene380
Fremont350
Van Buren321
Keokuk301
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur220
Adair210
Ringgold211
Adams160
Wayne161
Unassigned80
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