74 journalism professors accuse Fox News of spreading coronavirus misinformation

Dozens of journalism professors and working journalists signed an open letter to Fox News heads Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on Thursday, bashing the network’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic as a “danger to public health.”

“Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network—false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities,” the letter reads.

In the letter, the group cites multiple surveys, including a recent Pew Research poll in which 79 percent of Fox News viewers reported that they believed that the media had overstated the potency of the virus. It also cited that the average age for Fox News viewers is 65. Senior citizens are one of the two most at-risk demographics to experience fatal complications from the virus, the other being people with underlying health conditions.

74 journalism / comms professors + journalists have written an open letter to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch about the network’s coronavirus coverage.

“Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation…” pic.twitter.com/Vpk04Tc9es— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) April 2, 2020

The letter points out that some of Fox News’s reporters have done solid reporting on the outbreak, but also singled out multiple pundits on the network who have done the opposite, mentioning hosts Sean Hannity, Steve Hilton and Tucker Carlson all by name.

Specifically, the group pointed out a segment in which Carlson reported on a controversial French study that claims that anti-malarial drugs when used with certain antibiotics can be an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients. President Trump soon touted the treatment as a “game changer,” an assertion that was quickly walked back by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force. Fauci has urged and cautioned that the treatment is still unproven and more stringent studies and trials need to be conducted before calling it an effective treatment option.

“Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic,” the end of the letter reads. “Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans—including your elderly viewers—by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.” 

As of Thursday morning, there were over 215,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 5,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Hill has reached out to Fox News for comment.

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