A must-read article in The New York Times reveals how Fox News became a potentially lethal source of misinformation during the coronavirus outbreak – and it lays most of the blame on Lachlan Murdoch.
The article, by newly-hired Ben Smith, paints Lachlan Murdoch as a likable but out-of-touch and disinterested manager without the chops for the job: “Lachlan has delegated much of the running of the company to Viet Dinh, a high-powered Republican lawyer without much experience in the media business,” Smith reports. “People close to Lachlan Murdoch describe him as a laid-back executive who doesn’t spend his days watching Fox and is sometimes surprised to learn of a controversy it has generated.”
Smith compared Fox in the Trump era to an asylum run by its inmates. But in this case, the inmates have outsized power. After more than two weeks of suggesting that Democrats were a bigger problem than the coronavirus, the network finally pivoted (along with Trump). But in this case, Fox coverage 1.0 could prove fatal to its elderly and thus more vulnerable fans. Smith wrote:
The damage Fox did appears likely to extend beyond the typical media hits and misses. I asked Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Public Health Institute, who appeared on Fox News recently, whether he believes people will die because of Fox’s coverage.
“Yes,” he said. “Some commentators in the right-wing media spread a very specific type of misinformation that I think has been very harmful.”
Now we know that Fox employees have been harmed. As I’ve previously posted, four Fox Media employees have tested positive for coronavirus. Apparently, the Trump Troops are not taking it well.
Fox News civil war breaks out over coronavirus
The finger-pointing extends to the very top. Lachlan Murdoch never called Mr. Hannity, whom he had just signed to a new contract, about his coverage. The closest Fox executives have come to taking decisive action appears to be boasting, off the record of course, that they have taken decisive action. Their explanations collide almost comically. A person who spoke to Rupert Murdoch says that the 89-year-old chairman reached out to Mr. Hannity to tell him to take the virus “seriously.” But other executives said they had no knowledge of the call, and Mr. Hannity said in a statement that “this is absolutely false and never happened.”
One level down, Ms. Briganti has complained that Mr. Carlson is casting himself to reporters as a heroic truth-teller in contrast with other hosts, according to two people who heard directly of the conversations.
Now, with an outbreak of coronavirus inside the tent, so to speak, “Employees on Sunday were exchanging panicked texts about whether they should go to work on Monday,” Smith reported.
As I wrote in my last post about the Fox outbreak, I wish nobody harm and I’m in no mood to gloat. But they are reaping what they’ve sown - and I'm sorry but I'm a bit low on sympathy.
(Hannity image via screen grab)
We keep hearing about the heroism of the medical staff and I agree fully. I would however humbly suggest that we should be recognising the importance of the contribution of the people keeping vital services going: supermarkets and other food shops, chemists, newspaper vendors, gas stations, the police and the producers and distributors of essentials. A heartfelt thanks to all of them.
My sentiments, exactly. Ellen.