Friday’s New York Times offered its “strange new respect” to its most unlikely recipient of all: Right-wing radio host Michael Savage, in “He Still Taunts Pelosi, But His Loudest Howls Aim at Virus Doubters.”
Savage has been criticized by both sides for his vulgar on-air shock-jockery. But now that he’s shifted targets, using his epidemiology-related degrees to attack “uneducated” conservative rivals Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity over their coronavirus coverage, he’s gone from persona non grata to media darling. Times reporter Jeremy Peters is known for using any weapon to attack titans of conservative media.
There are a lot of people who are ruining the country right now, according to Michael Savage. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Liberal mayors in big cities like San Francisco. Undocumented immigrants. Homeless people.
But for the past two months, listeners to Mr. Savage’s conservative radio show have heard him howl with unabated contempt about another menace: “The pimps” in the right-wing media “who tell you what you want to hear.” They are “intellectual dwarfs” and “science illiterates,” he says, who spent weeks downplaying the threat from the coronavirus epidemic and accusing President Trump’s opponents of exaggerating it to hurt him politically.
Savage thinks anyone listening to the other hosts are ignorant lemmings. He told his listeners “Do you understand the danger you’re in by listening to these people and just following them blindly over a cliff?”
With no small amount of self-satisfaction, Mr. Savage reminds people of his credentials -- a Ph.D. and training in epidemiology -- and of the fact that he was one of the few voices in conservative media who had warned them all along.
Much of the time, Mr. Savage still sounds like any other right-wing shock jock -- making fun of Nancy Pelosi and doubting the validity of the #MeToo movement. But on the subject of the coronavirus, Mr. Savage has become one of the loudest voices of dissent on the right.
His views are a striking departure from the accepted version of events among Mr. Trump’s loyalists in the media, who have made a concerted effort to deny that they downplayed the epidemic....
Peters offered a metaphorical pat on the back:
His contempt for hosts like Mr. Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whose top-rated radio shows draw more than 30 million listeners each week, is especially searing. He mocks them as “Dr. Hannity” and “Rush Limbaugh, M.D., Ph.D.,” belittles their lack of education compared with his, and berates people who took their claims seriously....his background in science, and a recent heart attack that has reduced his schedule to three days a week, have given him a unique perspective.
This extended quote about conservatives’ lack of education dovetailed perfectly with the media elite's prejudices toward the right.
Mr. Savage’s wife....sees him taking on responsibility for waking people up to what parts of American conservatism, especially in the media, have become. “This culty hero worship of the uneducated, it’s very depressing,” she said. “It makes me ashamed to be a conservative"....
Peters has a history of attacking conservative outlets, bizarrely attacking Fox News for blaming China for the outbreak. This tribute to Savage is a sneak version of his usual attacks on the right-wing media bubble, from his own left-wing bubble.