Some time ago, Palmer Report wrote about the first lawsuit filed against Fox News by an ethics group based in Washington state, one of the early hotbeds for COVID-19 when it first hit America and said that it likely wouldn’t be the last legal action taken against the network, wherever it went. It looks like something worse might be hitting Donald Trump’s beloved network, and it might fall directly in the lap of his favorite anchor, Sean Hannity, who used to be able to brag about having one of the highest rated shows on the network.
Media critics warned Fox against downplaying the impact of COVID-19, which could put a number of their own audience at risk. Now, a new study that looked at the network’s programming in February and March indicates that parts of the country where Hannity’s show had higher ratings, were less likely to comply with social distancing guidelines (because Hannity was regularly downplaying fears) than parts of the country where Tucker Carlson’s slot did better, as he urged viewers and Donald Trump to take it seriously. The paper showed a significant difference in the number of cases. Where people tuned into Hannity more, the COVID-19 cases were 30% higher by mid-March.
As it’s the only study of its kind and not yet peer-reviewed, there are some reasons to be skeptical, but there is a sizable body of evidence that people do base a number of their health habits on what they see in popular media. With Fox hosts routinely referring to themselves as “trusted,” it’s fair to say that a number of people model their behavior and opinions after their preferred television hosts. It’s become a whole lot harder for Fox pundits to argue their case, and much more difficult for them to sweep Trump’s recklessness under the rug.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making