According to White House sources who spoke to The Washington Post, President Donald Trump only began taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously after watching Fox News personality Tucker Carlson declare the crisis is “very real” on his program.
As recently as March 9, the president had downplayed the effects of the virus, writing on Twitter that “Nothing is shut down” and that “life and the economy will go on.”
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
Since that tweet, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost all of its gains since before he took office, millions of Americans have been forced to quarantine as businesses shutter and other services shut down, and the death toll in the United States has spiked to 117, up from 22 the week before.
Carlson’s comments on the national response to the growing threat soon caught Trump’s attention.
“People you trust — people you probably voted for — have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,” Carlson said on March 9. “It’s just partisan politics, they say. Calm down. In the end, this is just like the flu, and people die from that every year. Coronavirus will pass, and when it does we will feel foolish for worrying about it.”
“Maybe they’re just not paying attention, or maybe they believe they’re serving some higher cause by shading reality … And there’s an election coming up. Best not to say anything that might help the other side. We get it. But they’re wrong,” he added, later concluding that the national testing shortage obscured the number of cases, which experts say is exponentially much higher.
“The real number is without question far higher than that — soon we will have a better sense of just how much higher,” he said. “By then, this epidemic will have caused economic damage whose effects may dog us for years. People you know will get sick — some may die. This is real.”
You can watch footage of Carlson’s remarks below.
Tucker Carlson pushing back against coronavirus coverage from those who "have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem."
"'It's just partisan politics,' they say. 'Calm down. In the end this is just like the flu.'
Carlson: "It's definitely not just the flu" pic.twitter.com/h7N20Pi2Bd
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) March 10, 2020
Carlson’s commentary was a direct contradiction of prior coverage on Fox News that had effectively downplayed the impact of the virus on public health by insinuating that the response was an attempt orchestrated by Democrats to shame and impeach the president.
In contrast to Carlson, Fox Business host Trish Regan declared without evidence that “Many in the liberal media are using coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.”
“This is yet another attempt to impeach, and sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of political casualties for them,” she continued, adding that Democrats “don’t care who they hurt, whether it be their need to create mass hysteria to encourage a massive sell-off in an overly anxious stock market or, to create mass hysteria in order to stop our economy dead in its tracks.”