One of the internet’s foremost tech journalists accused Fox News of spreading a “fake news contagion,” downplaying COVID-19, and Fox News host Sean Hannity fired back.
Recode co-founder and New York Times contributor Kara Swisher has a history of hating Fox News. She condemned Fox News in her op-ed “Fox’s Fake News Contagion,” on March 31 and quipped that consuming Fox News content is like “extreme senior sugar addiction mixed with a series of truly unpleasant and conspiracy-laden doughnuts.” She later added that “it sometimes feels like Fox News is eating my mother’s brain.”
Swisher claimed that Fox News hosts “dished out dangerous misinformation about the virus in the early days of the crisis in the United States” later adding that “Some might allege that they have lost loved ones because of what was broadcast by your news organization.”
Hannity schooled her with a tweetstorm, and included a piece from The Times headlined “Who Says It’s Not Safe to Travel to China?” Rosie Spinks, author of that Feb. 5 article, suggested the world is in a “political moment dominated by xenophobic rhetoric and the building of walls.” Spinks later said that “the canceling of flights, closing of borders and level-four travel warnings — seem more appropriate for something much worse.”
Spinks concluded her article by saying “Canceling flights, cruises and locking down borders when it’s not advised by international agencies will be not only an act of economic self-harm but also a wasted opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past.”
Hannity followed up by asking, “Hey Kara, 10 days after the first confirmed Covid 19 case in the USA (Jan 21) President Trump implemented the travel ban (Jan 31) Did the Potus make the right decision? Or do you agree with Quid Pro Quo Joe, that it was ‘Hysterical Xenophobia and Fear Mongering’?”
Hannity also shared an entire timeline of his coverage about the COVID-19 pandemic as it progressed and more information was revealed on the world stage. This included coverage labelled with times he discussed “The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 with THREE different physicians” in late January.
But this is not the first time we have seen this sort of thing from Swisher. She has targeted Fox News before, blasting Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch as the “largest menace to the modern world” and nicknaming him “Uncle Satan” back in January.
Swisher, in her latest piece, seemed to imply that Fox News hosts were downplaying the virus for political reasons:
[E]xecutives at Fox News HQ were more reasonable behind the scenes. The offices were Lysol-ed and sanitized and employees were given instructions to be safe. All while the network was doing quite the opposite: spraying viewers with far too much fake news contagion.
Swisher then quoted The Times media columnist Ben Smith, who wrote:
Fox failed its viewers and the broader public in ways both revealing and potentially lethal. In particular, Lachlan Murdoch failed to pry its most important voices away from their embrace of the president’s early line: that the virus was not a big threat in the United States.
While Swisher at least acknowledged how the Fox News host Tucker Carlson addressed coronavirus concerns early, she still turned that comment into an opportunity to take a swipe at Hannity:
Fox may also seek cover from some early pronouncements from another powerful Fox host, Tucker Carlson. While Mr. Hannity spun the hoax line, Mr. Carlson was quite firmly in the taking-it-seriously camp, urging Mr. Trump to act.