Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post is encouraging one powerful old man to rein in another one:
The insidious feedback loop between President T—- and Fox News is no secret.
When T—- says “jump,” the network leaps into action. And what the president hears on Fox News often dictates his own pronouncements and policies — which, in turn, are glowingly represented in Fox News’s coverage and commentary.
That’s never been anything short of dangerous, since the effect has been to create a de facto state-run media monster more devoted to maintaining power than shedding light on the truth. But now the mind-meld of Fox News and T—- is potentially lethal as T—- plays down the seriousness of the coronavirus and, hearing nothing but applause from his favorite information source for doing so, sees little reason to change.
There’s one person who could transform all that in an instant: Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media mogul who, at 89, still exerts his influence on the leading cable network — and thus on the president himself….
So imagine if the word flowed down from on high that Fox News should communicate to T—- that he needs to take an entirely new tack on the virus. Imagine if Murdoch ordered the network to end its habit of praising him as if he were the Dear Leader of an authoritarian regime and to instead use its influence to drive home the seriousness of the moment….
The network’s influence on T—- is clear from the presidential tweets that follow fast on the heels of a Fox News broadcast. He was always a fan of Fox News, but after entering the White House, he made it even more of an obsessive daily habit, … to the extent of blotting out dissenting voices from other sources.
T—- made specific reference to his reliance on Fox News during his misleading press event Friday, when he offered unwarranted reassurance rather than urging extreme caution and decisive action…
The message: Go about your business, America, and it will all disappear soon….By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling hard truths: As much as 70 percent of that country could end up being infected.
Matt Gertz, a Media Matters senior fellow … connected the dots: “Roughly an hour before his comments, a Fox News medical correspondent argued on-air that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu; a few hours later, the same correspondent argued that coronavirus fears were being deliberately overblown in hopes of damaging T—- politically…. The network’s personalities have frequently claimed that the T—- administration has been doing a great job responding to coronavirus….”
But it’s not just the opinionators … who are at fault. The news segments — while certainly more tied to reality — seldom push back in a meaningful way against the T—- message.
On Tuesday, news anchors … docilely sat back and lobbed soft questions while the president’s son Eric praised his father’s crisis-management skills and blamed liberal media figures who criticize him…
Even if all that changed today, great harm has already been done. As The Washington Post and others have documented, the administration has repeatedly squandered chances to prepare for and manage the epidemic.
Meanwhile, reality chugs on. From Crooked Media’s daily newsletter:
The World Health Organization … pointedly noted that while all countries can still change the pandemic’s course, “some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.” It always feels nice to be seen. Anyway, President T—- is still hiding the truth about the pandemic from the public:
The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, for no conceivable reason other than to prevent embarrassing leaks about the administration’s response. Officials have had dozens of improperly classified discussions in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health and Human Services, and staffers without security clearances, including key health experts, were thus unable to attend….
A day after T—- once again insisted, “it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away,” top health officials told the House Oversight and Reform Committee the opposite…. Dr. Anthony Fauci informed lawmakers that the outbreak is “going to get worse,” and that COVID-19 has a mortality rate ten times higher than the seasonal flu.
Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield, who has taken up residence in T—-’s pocket, told the committee there are no CDC plans to implement curbside coronavirus testing, because “we’re trying to maintain the relationship between individuals and their health-care providers”, a comically terrible justification for several reasons…. Minnesota care providers have begun their own curbside testing, and hopefully other states will soon follow suit.
From the start, the U.S. outbreak has been a story of state and local officials doing their best to respond in the face of egregious federal delays….
It’s still unclear how many Americans have been tested—the CDC said around 8,500 swabs have been taken, but that number would be much higher than the total number of tested patients. By devastating contrast, South Korea has been able to test 10,000 people per day since late February. …
The White House’s imposed secrecy around the federal response has restricted crucial information, delayed action, and will ultimately cost lives. At the heart of the cover-up is the cavernous gap between what T—- and top health experts have said about the coronavirus threat, and so far, T—-’s only acknowledgement of the contradiction has been to call it “fake news”…
The president could declare a national emergency. That would give the government more power to deal with the virus. Politico reports, however:
T—- is reluctant to declare an expansive emergency to combat the escalating coronavirus outbreak, fearful of stoking panic with such a dramatic step, according to three people familiar with the situation.
Instead, the president is expected to sign within days what the White House calls a more limited designation… Any emergency declaration would go significantly beyond that move, bringing in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and freeing up funding and resources for states struggling to contain the rapidly spreading virus.
T—-’s concern at this point is that going further could hamper his narrative that the coronavirus is similar to the seasonal flu and could further agitate Wall Street….
Health experts have rigorously disputed any assertion that the coronavirus is equivalent to the seasonal flu, noting it is much more lethal and particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with other health conditions….
The administration is “not comfortable with the optics of national emergency” because of how it might impact Wall Street, tourism and air travel, a former Department of Homeland Security official said….
T—- has spent weeks trying to reassure the public about the outbreak, while the stock market shows daily declines not seen since the 2008 recession. He is especially sensitive to variations in the stock market, seeing it as a key talking point in his reelection campaign.
“Everything is about the election now,” said a former T—- adviser….
Having the most self-centered man in America as our president is not working out.