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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.

Cases: 455783

Reported Deaths: 6166
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin945441502
Ramsey40698749
Dakota33623354
Anoka31398368
Washington20579237
Stearns18111190
St. Louis14006251
Scott1221199
Wright11811107
Olmsted1083075
Sherburne831270
Carver705639
Clay660684
Rice624774
Kandiyohi558772
Blue Earth549533
Crow Wing490678
Otter Tail464968
Chisago460438
Benton423788
Winona394948
Douglas379766
Nobles374847
Mower374429
Goodhue358163
Polk330760
McLeod328647
Beltrami316148
Morrison314645
Lyon306139
Becker289439
Itasca287843
Isanti286143
Carlton284443
Steele279510
Pine270515
Freeborn254723
Todd233730
Nicollet230538
Brown218634
Mille Lacs215745
Le Sueur214416
Cass210824
Meeker201533
Waseca193316
Wabasha17483
Martin172026
Roseau166517
Hubbard151138
Redwood141327
Houston140314
Dodge13974
Renville138540
Chippewa133232
Cottonwood129118
Fillmore12778
Wadena120818
Rock112012
Aitkin111533
Faribault110116
Sibley11017
Watonwan10698
Pennington101016
Kanabec99818
Pipestone97223
Yellow Medicine95016
Murray9137
Jackson87310
Swift84718
Pope7485
Stevens7078
Marshall70415
Clearwater68814
Lake66415
Lac qui Parle66116
Wilkin63510
Koochiching60810
Lincoln4912
Big Stone4703
Unassigned43968
Grant4388
Norman4268
Mahnomen4167
Kittson37420
Red Lake3204
Traverse2623
Lake of the Woods1981
Cook1160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312194

Reported Deaths: 4433
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46975465
Linn18114279
Scott15900172
Black Hawk14123243
Woodbury13145181
Johnson1231752
Dubuque11651159
Pottawattamie9182115
Dallas910872
Story883538
Cerro Gordo474372
Webster473377
Warren461539
Sioux460457
Clinton459168
Marshall432262
Buena Vista397230
Muscatine396578
Des Moines395543
Plymouth353670
Wapello351798
Jasper333359
Lee326932
Marion310853
Jones275250
Henry269131
Carroll258934
Bremer250448
Crawford235824
Washington224133
Boone223517
Benton213950
Mahaska198637
Jackson195332
Tama190959
Dickinson189229
Kossuth180944
Delaware176536
Clay173021
Wright167624
Fayette166324
Hamilton162530
Buchanan162324
Winneshiek161020
Harrison158762
Hardin157831
Cedar155819
Clayton153949
Butler152324
Page148115
Floyd141936
Cherokee140327
Mills138517
Lyon137933
Poweshiek135424
Hancock132424
Allamakee131530
Iowa128022
Madison124210
Calhoun12379
Grundy122828
Jefferson122425
Winnebago122329
Mitchell117137
Louisa116430
Cass115343
Chickasaw113812
Appanoose113040
Sac112815
Union111723
Emmet111332
Humboldt107819
Shelby106427
Guthrie104624
Franklin103618
Unassigned10210
Palo Alto92611
Montgomery89224
Keokuk86426
Howard85919
Monroe82620
Clarke8199
Pocahontas78711
Ida76430
Davis70421
Adair69720
Greene6977
Monona68418
Lucas66910
Osceola65011
Worth6224
Taylor6009
Fremont5276
Van Buren50515
Decatur4994
Ringgold45511
Audubon4258
Wayne42021
Adams3023
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