Now that President Donald Trump has been forced to soberly address the coronavirus outbreak, after weeks of calling fears about the virus a Democratic “hoax,” some of his biggest boosters on Fox News have also moved from that dismissive talking point to a new one: Do not criticize the president while he leads us through this crisis.
After weeks of downplaying fears about COVID-19 or actively spreading misinformation about its origins and repercussions, Fox News hosts and guests over the past several days have lauded the president’s handling of the global pandemic, and bashed anyone who raises concerns about the Trump administration’s response.
Fox News primetime star Sean Hannity—a close confidant of the president’s who has been referred to as the unofficial White House chief of staff—dramatically changed his tune about the seriousness of the crisis at the top of his show on Monday night. Days after suggesting the so-called “deep state” was using the pandemic to hurt the American economy and push “mandated medicines,” Hannity called on all Americans to unite behind the president to overcome the crisis.
“This very moment is a critical time for everybody in the country,” Hannity proclaimed in his opening monologue. “If we all joined as Americans—the virus doesn't discriminate against Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative—if we can do this for 15 days, thousands of American lives will be saved!”
Less than a week after downplaying the severity of the virus by citing the then-low U.S. death toll, Hannity went on to warn how dangerous coronavirus was to the population as a whole.
“For the 15-day period, the president is asking all Americans, even those that well, don't like a single thing he's done, let's all join together in this effort," the suddenly reconciliatory host exclaimed, days after accusing virus-related fears as being partisan-driven.
Earlier in the day, late-afternoon talk show The Five spent several segments lamenting how critics of the Trump response are merely “politicizing the pandemic.” Co-host Greg Gutfeld asserted, following the president’s latest press conference, “You cannot match the deeds that this administration is doing. They’re doing amazing work.” He also brushed aside any blame Trump should take for initially downplaying the crisis, insisting the president was merely acting as the “nation’s cheerleader” and trying to slow the market panic.
“Optimism is his blood,” Gutfeld declared of Trump. And then the gabfest swiveled to its favorite topic of choice: How the media is actually to blame for everything.
Earlier in the day, during an interview on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co., frequent guest and historian Doug Wead (who recently published a hagiographic book about the Trump presidency) proclaimed that, “from the standpoint of history,” Trump’s pandemic leadership “is almost perfect. It looks like he was born for this moment.”
“With Trump, you’ve got a man born for this moment,” he said. “He unites Walmart and Target and Pelosi and Mnuchin. He’s willing to use the government, he’s willing to turn loose the private sector. He wants to do good, that desire to be a good president.”
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs—who also serves as an informal adviser to the president—vociferously applauded Trump for his Monday presser at the top of his program Monday evening. (The TV talker, however, found only 80 seconds of airtime to devote to the largest point drop in Dow Jones history.)
“The president said the Wuhan virus crisis could last into July and the president suggested Americans should limit gatherings to no more than 10 people. He made it clear he and his administration are committed to the defeat of the virus as soon as possible and called on American citizens to be disciplined and do their civic duty to stop the spread,” Dobbs said before recapping the latest number of cases and deaths in the United States.
Dobbs, while repeating his racially charged nickname for the novel coronavirus, further heaped praise on the “Trump administration's innovative and high-energy efforts to stop the Wuhan virus” by highlighting recent vaccine tests. The Fox host, meanwhile, wrapped up his show by approvingly playing a clip of Trump rating his response to the virus as a 10 on a scale of 10, adding that the president was “highlighting” the measures his administration has taken to “proactively stop” the virus.
Others on the network have taken to scorning any and all criticism of the president’s handling of the crisis.
Fox & Friends co-host Dr. Nicole Saphier—filling in for Ainsley Earhardt, who just last Friday encouraged viewers to fly despite all medical advice—questioned whether any criticism of Trump’s handling of the outbreak is “really what America needs to hear right now.”
And some of the president’s most outspoken boosters have taken to the air to call upon the public to rally to stop “bickering” about or pointing out any faults in the Trump White House’s slow and at times incoherent response to the outbreak.
Hours after the markets had a one-day rally on Friday following Trump’s announcement of a national emergency to deal with the pandemic, Dobbs showed off a graph highlighting the Dow spike, autographed by Trump himself, while warning Democrats against criticizing the commander-in-chief.
“It’s quite a remarkable time,” Dobbs said to guest Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). “The president driving the market higher with his national emergency declaration.”
“The president sent me, I don’t know if you saw it, a signed graph of the market taking off from the moment he began that news conference,” Dobbs continued. “If you are a Democrat in this country thinking about playing politics with the coronavirus, I would think that chart would probably dissuade you.” (The market resumed its steep decline when trading began on Monday, nearly erasing all of the stock market’s gains since the president took office in 2017.)
Fox Business Network host David Asman made a similar observation on Friday. After a guest on Friday said the president had moved too slow to address the pandemic, Fox Business Network host David Asman grumbled that he was seeing “a lot of criticism of the president but I don't hear any better plans from those people who are criticizing him.”
And while interviewing Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Saturday night, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro applauded the top doctor for telling reporters that they should stop their “finger-pointing” and scrutiny of the president’s handling of the crisis.
“You talked to people about leaning in and talked about prioritizing the health and safety, no more bickering or finger-pointing. Just hit the reset button,” she proclaimed. “I was cheering you on because, honestly, I think the finger-pointing that’s been going against this administration when we are dealing with something new, something we never dealt with before. Something we are not built to deal with. You came out and said: ‘Enough. Let’s just do it.’”
While Dobbs and Pirro were suddenly extremely concerned about the seriousness of the crisis now that Trump had declared a national emergency, days earlier they were publicly dismissive of the viral outbreak’s lethality. Pirro, for example, exclaimed that COVID-19 is actually less deadly than the seasonal flu; and Dobbs insisted that the “national left-wing media” was “playing up fears” of the virus, even while simultaneously noting that more than 100,000 people worldwide had been infected.