The front page of Sunday’s New York Times used the coronavirus crisis to hypocritically accuse the right of spreading life-threatening disinformation about coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci: “Chief Scientist Draws Venom From the Right.”
Yet the Times itself questioned the credibility of coronavirus expert Deborah Birx after she expressed guarded optimism. To suggest Birx is a Trump stooge is vital news, but to call Fauci a Hillary stooge demands a front-page Times investigation itself?
Twitter reaction was launched after Fauci rubbed his forehead during a briefing. Reporters Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel were appalled:
Some thought Dr. Fauci was slighting the president, leading to a vitriolic online reaction. On Twitter and Facebook, a post that falsely claimed he was part of a secret cabal who opposed Mr. Trump...
A week later, Dr. Fauci -- the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak -- has become the target of an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.
That fanciful claim has spread across social media, fanned by a right-wing chorus of Mr. Trump’s supporters....
The Times was on it:
An analysis by The New York Times found over 70 accounts on Twitter that have promoted the hashtag #FauciFraud, with some tweeting as frequently as 795 times a day....
So what was the count for virulent anti-Birx tweets spurred by the paper's own reporting?
The torrent of falsehoods aimed at discrediting Dr. Fauci is another example of the hyperpartisan information flow that has driven a wedge into the way Americans think. For the past few years, far-right supporters of President Trump have regularly vilified those whom they see as opposing him....
It is the latest twist in the ebb and flow of right-wing punditry that for weeks echoed Mr. Trump in minimizing the threat posed by the coronavirus and arguably undercut efforts to alert the public of its dangers. When the president took a more assertive posture against the outbreak, conservative outlets shifted, too -- but now accuse Democrats and journalists of trying to use the pandemic to damage Mr. Trump politically.
The point in bold above is obviously true.
The reporters spun the scattered Twitter criticism of Fauci into life and death, quoting Syracuse University professor Whitney Phillips:
“What this case will show is that conspiracy theories can kill,” she said.
After Fauci’s gesture:
Anti-Fauci posts spiked....prompted by a March 21 article in The American Thinker, a conservative blog, which published the seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had written to an aide of Mrs. Clinton.
In the email, Dr. Fauci praised Mrs. Clinton for her stamina during the 2013 Benghazi hearings. The American Thinker falsely claimed that the email was evidence that he was part of a secret group who opposed Mr. Trump.
The conspiracy theory was soon shared thousands of times....
So what’s the “conspiracy theory”? Where is the “secret cabal” accusation in the American Thinker post, which mostly rehashes funding issues about the AIDS crisis? The Times seriously oversold the post.