'They're rooting for the coronavirus': Trump allies attack Democrats and the media

The right-wing media have united in defending the president and his response, blaming the left for using the virus for their own agenda

As the number of coronavirus cases begins to swell in the United States, conservative media outlets have been dedicating hours of airtime to slamming Democrats and mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times and CNN for being critical of Donald Trump and his response to the coronavirus.

For days, Trump’s allies in right-wing media have defended the president and his response to coronavirus, supporting the administration’s narrative that Democrats are using the coronavirus to further their own political agenda by purposefully exaggerating the severity of coronavirus just to blame Trump for it.

Peter Hegseth, a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekends, admonished Democrats’ criticism, saying: “They’re rooting for the coronavirus to spread. They’re rooting for it to grow. They’re rooting for the problem to get worse.”

“They’re probably jumping for joy,” Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said about the Democrats’ reaction to stock markets dropping.

Fox News has brought on Trump’s allies as guests, showering them with sympathy over the criticism they are getting over coronavirus.

On Laura Ingraham’s show, the Fox News host similarly rebuked the media for using coronavirus “to smear the administration in a number of ways”.

“Such colossal nonsense,” said guest Alex Azar, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, in agreement.

Conservative pundit Sean Hannity brought on Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son, to help emphasize that Trump as president is effectively mitigating a potential outbreak in the US. “How many thousands of Americans didn’t contract this virus?” Hannity asked Donald Trump Jr.

“Well, many,” Donald Trump Jr responded. “There’s no way we wouldn’t have thousands of more people that have contracted this [without Trump].”

Around 100 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the US and there have been six deaths, all in Washington state. The World Health Organization has confirmed nearly 90,000 cases, the vast majority in China, and more than 3,000 deaths.

Coronavirus, or Covid-19, is a respiratory illness with symptoms similar to flu. Most who contract it recover but it can develop into pneumonia-like symptoms and the elderly and those with health problems are at particular risk.

Other guests that Fox have brought over the past week have blasted Democrats and “the media” for criticizing Trump.

Gayle Trotter, a conservative columnist, said it was “outrageous” that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has not taken down a tweet that read “Remember this moment: Trump, in South Carolina, just called the coronavirus a ‘hoax’.” Milbank was referring to Trump saying at a rally that “Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus … this is their new hoax.”

“President Trump has said this a serious matter, and he’s not getting press coverage for that,” Trotter said on Fox News.

Liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes said: “Really fascinating to watch rightwing media wrestle with coronavirus. The reactionary instinct … is to fearmonger about diseased foreigners, but that might hurt Trump, so they’re trying to tamp down those fears or spin some anti-Trump conspiracy.”

Donald Trump listens to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a briefing on the coronavirus.
Donald Trump listens to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a briefing on the coronavirus. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Tensions between Democrats and Republicans around the US’ response to coronavirus escalated last week when Donald Trump announced that his administration would be digging up $2.5bn to respond to a potential outbreak and putting vice-president Mike Pence in charge of the US response to the illness.

Democrats have been vocal about their criticism of the funding, saying Trump’s requested funding is not enough. Democrats have also said that putting Pence at the front of the fight against coronavirus shows that the White House is not taking it seriously.

In defending his father against criticism from the media, Donald Trump Jr went so far as to say on Fox News that Democrats “seemingly hope that it comes here and kills millions of people so they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.”

In a tense exchange with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Pence said that Donald Trump Jr’s comment was necessary pushback. “When you see voices from our side pushing back on outrageous and irresponsible rhetoric on the other side, I think that’s important,” he told Todd.

“Do you think this rhetoric from your side helps?” Todd asked.

“I never begrudge people responding to unwarranted, unjustified attacks,” Pence said.

In the process of their defense, Trump’s allies try to assure their audiences that any panic over coronavirus in the United States is largely unnecessary.

In an earlier segment last week, Hannity mocked Democrat and “the media’s” response to coronavirus: “Tonight I can absolutely report the sky is falling. We are all doomed. The end is near. The apocalypse is imminent, and you are going to all die. All of you in the next 48 hours, and it’s all President Trump’s fault.”

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh said “the coronavirus is the common cold, folks” after saying the illness “is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump”.

Joel Pollak, an editor at Breitbart wrote a column titled Five Reasons to Stop Freaking Out About Coronavirus, where he wrote that “coronavirus is a familiar illness, and not as bad as others”.

Instead, “coronavirus is an ‘info-demic’, a panic caused by the spread of partial and often misleading information about a health risk, sometimes deliberately”, Pollack wrote.


Lauren Aratani

The GuardianTramp

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