Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who received mainstream praise for helping push President Donald Trump to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously, confidently declared on Monday night that the virus that has killed more than 56,000 Americans in only a few weeks “just isn’t nearly as deadly as we thought it was.”
Pointing to recent antibody studies that show high rates of infection in New York and California, Carlson kicked off his primetime Fox News program by claiming these tests—which critics have warned could be flawed due to false positives and statistical errors—reveal the disease is not as dangerous as advertised.
“This new evidence means the virus is far less deadly, a full order of magnitude less deadly, that authorities first told us it was,” the Tucker Carlson Tonight host said. “At the same time, the same research suggests the virus is incredibly easy to spread between adults.”
The Fox star eventually moved on to highly scrutinized claims made by a pair of California doctors to further his case that coronavirus has already infected a large percentage of the population with very little damage.
Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi, who co-own a Bakersfield urgent care clinic, asserted last week that if one took the infection rate of the patients they have tested in their facility and extrapolated it across California, 12 percent of the state’s population, or 5 million people, have already had the disease. The doctors then took California’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths at the time, roughly 1,200, and divided it by the number of cases they believe exist in the state, arriving at an ultra-low 0.03 percent mortality rate.
Carlson said the two doctors, who are calling for an end to shelter-in-place orders as a result of their calculations, are “serious people” who are asking questions after “analyzing all the numbers.”
Local health experts and epidemiologists disagree with the doctors’ recommendations to immediately stop social distancing. Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at UC Irvine, said their premise was wrong, noting that they are grossly overestimating the infection rate due to statistical bias.
“They’re advancing factual inaccuracies and playing off the esoteric nature of the mortality stats to make a case that the economy should be reopened,” Noymer told The Californian. “I agree it should be reopened, but it should be opened deliberately, bit by bit, and informed by science. Not informed by a misreading of the mortality.”
Carlson continued to dismiss nationwide physical distancing guidelines as having played any role in helping to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus, which he again insisted was not so dangerous.
“Six weeks later we are happy to say that curve has been flattened, but it’s likely not because of the lockdowns,” he proclaimed. “The virus just isn’t nearly as deadly as we thought it was, all of us, including on this show. Everybody thought it was, but it turned out not to be.”
Carlson, who in early March appeared to call out both Trump and his Fox News colleagues for minimizing the severity of the coronavirus, has become in recent weeks one of the loudest voices at Fox calling for an end to stay-at-home restrictions in order to restart the economy.
His network, meanwhile, recently cut ties with pro-Trump vlogging superstars Diamond & Silk, largely as a result of their peddling of conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus, including claims that the virus is not so deadly and that people should purposely get infected to gain immunity.