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Jennifer Rubin says…

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Author Topic: Jennifer Rubin says…  (Read 585 times)
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Having fun in the hills!

« on: April 03, 2020, 07:40:14 pm »

from The Washington Post…

Fox News has succeeded — in misinforming millions of Americans

Here is why Fox News is a public health hazard.

By JENNIFER RUBIN | 3:00PM EDT — Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Protesters outside the Fox News headquarters on March 13 in New York City. — Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
Protesters outside the Fox News headquarters on March 13 in New York City. — Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.


The group who names MSNBC as their main news source is far more likely than the Fox News group to answer correctly that the coronavirus originated in nature rather than a laboratory and that it will take a year or more for a vaccine to become available. On both questions, the portion in the CNN group to answer correctly falls between the MSNBC and Fox News numbers.

(Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.)

The extent of the partisan information gap is quite striking. “Those who call MSNBC their main political news source (92 percent) are far more likely to say the media covered the [novel coronavirus] outbreak somewhat or very well than the Fox News group (58 percent)," Pew finds. "And they are much less likely than those who name Fox News as their main source to say the media exaggerated the risks posed by the pandemic (35 percent of the MSNBC group versus 79 percent of the Fox News group).”

Let's be blunt: The virus did not originate in a lab, we will not have a vaccine soon and the media did not exaggerate the threat of a pandemic that may claim roughly one-quarter of a million lives. The people who listen to Fox News got not merely biased information but wrong information — information that might have induced them to expose themselves unnecessarily to deadly risks (e.g., ignore social-distancing instructions).

As one would expect, the Fox News pandemic of disinformation afflicts Republicans disproportionately. “About three-quarters (76 percent) of those who name Fox News as their main source are conservative Republicans and Republican leaners, while 57 percent who name MSNBC are liberal Democrats and Democratic leaners.” CNN falls somewhere in between. (“Fully 38 percent of those who name CNN as their main source are liberal Democrats, while another 40 percent are moderate or conservative Democrats.”)

In short, Fox News — its anchors, its contributors, its panelists and its guests (e.g., Republican elected officials) — have spread provably wrong information to its viewers on arguably the most important story in our lifetimes. A large percentage of Americans who form the Trump cult and absorb his misleading information (It's like the flu! Plenty of tests!) get their misinformation reinforced by an outlet that seeks as its main goal to support the president.

While it is highly unlikely (given that they are making money from bamboozling the public) the Murdochs, the Fox Corporation board (which includes former House speaker Paul Ryan), Fox executives and Fox News advertisers might want to reflect on a business model that depends on misinforming millions of Americans about a life-threatening pandemic. (As Ben Smith reported, the Murdochs were protecting themselves by social distancing at a time their network was misinforming the public.)

Fox News has hid behind two canards for years: First, it is a counterweight to “liberal bias." Second, there is a division between straight news during the daytime and evening opinion shows. Neither rationalization holds up.

Facts are neither liberal nor conservative — at least they did not used to be. One does not combat bias (real or exaggerated) by presenting false narratives, ignoring factual material that contradicts one's ideological preferences or attacking outlets that are presenting accurate information (i.e., the mainstream media). The Pew survey demonstrates that Fox News is not merely counteracting supposed bias against Trump but conveying false, and in this case, dangerous, information.

Likewise, the dividing line between straight news and opinion programming on Fox was obliterated long ago. In its choice of story lines (Benghazi! Immigrant caravans! Virus threats exaggerated!) Fox's daytime programming is every bit as misleading and inaccurate as its night-time fare. Its interviews are generally embarrassing softball affairs that allow misinformation to go unrebutted (e.g., its recent White House town hall). Moreover, at least in traditional journalism, slapping “opinion” on your lies is no excuse. The underlying facts, be they in opinion or in daytime shows, for every other outlet must be accurate, must be fact-checked and must be corrected if wrong. At Fox News, the entire schedule has tolerated — even promoted —false accounts in order to reinforce its audience's partisan preferences.

The bottom line is that Fox News is not performing the most basic journalistic function, namely, to inform the public. It blasts out propaganda and misinformation. That is morally obnoxious in normal times. In the era of covid-19, however, it may have deadly consequences.


Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion from a center-right perspective for The Washington Post. She covers a range of domestic and foreign policy issues and provides insight into the conservative movement, the Republican Party and threats to Western democracies. Rubin, who is also an MSNBC contributor, came to The Post after three years with Commentary magazine. Prior to her career in journalism, Rubin practiced labor law for two decades, an experience that informs and enriches her work. She is a mother of two sons and lives in Northern Virginia.


Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Trump Fans believe him over the media on coronavirus. This is dangerous.

 • Erik Wemple: CNN, MSNBC refused to carry full Trump coronavirus briefing. Yay!

 • Max Boot: Trump and Rubio's latest attacks on the media are grotesque

 • Karen Tumulty: How reporters should handle Trump's press briefings

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