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Tucker Carlson, for All His Faults, Gets What Trump Doesn’t About Coronavirus (Column)

Tucker Carlson
AP/REX/Shutterstock

I never thought I’d say this out loud, let alone write it, but I actually found a modicum of respect for Tucker Carlson Monday night when on his primetime program he broke ranks with colleagues at Fox News and took Donald Trump to task for lying to the public about the gravity of the coronavirus epidemic.

To the surprise of many, including fellow hosts and the right-wing audience of the conservative cable news show, Carlson said the spread of the virus “is clearly a serious problem.”

From the get-go, Trump has downplayed the severity of the contagion and lied to the American people, claiming it’s no worse than the flu, and that more die from that every year than will from the coronavirus. Using some bizarre hand gesture to demonstrate the come-and-go nature of the illness, Trump attempted to reassure folks that it will pass as quickly as it emerged.

In contrast, Carlson referred to the outbreak as a “major event,” stressing, “It’s definitely not just the flu.”

He urged the president, whom he ordinarily fawns over to a sickening degree, to communicate the gravity of the fast-spreading virus to the public. The “surest sign of strength,” he told Trump, would be to “tell the truth” rather than “assuring people that everything will be fine.”

By the way, Carlson is far from a saint in my eyes, regardless of his truth-telling about the epidemic. He refers to the disease as the “Chinese virus,” and he asked a guest on his show about the conspiracy theory that it was created in a Chinese lab. I totally concur with the sentiment expressed in Brian Stelter’s recent “Reliable Sources” newsletter: “It’s impossible to ignore the racial overtones in his coverage.”

The willingness of other Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity and Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan to continue portraying the epidemic as a politically charged weapon to destroy Trump has undermined efforts to communicate some very specific guidelines about how to mitigate its spread.

According to official counts, there are more than 118,110 cases worldwide and 4,260 deaths.

Unfortunately, by the time this week’s issue publishes, those numbers will surely increase.