At Real Clear Politics: Hypocrisy in NYT’s Reporting on a COVID-Skeptic’s Death

Apr 20, 2020 | Coronavirus, Media Bias, op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at Real Clear Politics:

The New York Times thinks it nailed Fox News. Over the weekend, the Times ran a blistering story that blamed the death of Brooklyn bar owner Joe Joyce on skepticism of the coronavirus panic. Supposedly assured by President Trump and Fox News that there wasn’t a problem, Joyce made the fatal mistake of going on a cruise.

Times reporter Ginia Bellafante wrote:

“He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,” Kristen [Joyce’s daughter] told me. Early in March, Sean Hannity went on air, proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared “unnecessarily.” He saw it all, he said, “as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.”

Many in the media, such as CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy and reporters from the Washington Post, have seized on the Times story as proof of the harm from Fox News’ reporting. MSNBC’s David Corn wrote: “A beautifully written and sad story.  It shows how Trump and Fox have killed Americans. It’s unforgivable.”

But there were big problems with Bellafante’s story. For one thing, Hannity’s on-air statement came eight days after Joyce’s cruise began on March 1, so it couldn’t have been a factor in his decision to go. Also, Bellafante misconstrues Trump’s use of the word “hoax.” Most glaring is the story’s sheer hypocrisy. Virtually all of the news media, including Ms. Bellafante herself, were claiming immediately before the cruise that there was little reason for Americans to alter their behavior because of the virus.

On Feb. 27, just three days before the cruise began, Bellafante tweeted: “I fundamentally don’t understand the panic: incidence of the disease is declining in China. Virus is not deadly in the vast majority of cases. Production and so on will slow down and will obviously rebound.”

The media has made a big play of Trump supposedly having “blood on his hands.” The basic claim is that he was in denial about the seriousness of the virus and delayed dealing with it. But after Trump banned travel from China on Jan. 31, the New York Times itself ran the headline “Beware the Pandemic Panic.” On Feb. 5, the Times mocked Trump’s travel ban as being “unjust” in an article headlined “Who Says It’s Not Safe to Travel to China?”

The United States was the first country to impose such travel restrictions on China, and did so in defiance of both the World Health Organization and much of the Democratic Party. Trump was ahead of the curve again when he imposed a travel ban on Europe on March 12. The New York Times has to rewrite history to make its case. Couldn’t the Times now find a reporter who had in fact seen this coming? That would at least reduce the glaring hypocrisy.

Democrats have seized on Trump’s use of the word “hoax” back in February, but the president was referring to the media criticism of his handling of the emerging pandemic. Fact-checkers have attacked this interpretation of the “hoax” comment, and even liberal-leaning PolitiFact dismissed as “false ” the notion that Trump used that word to describe the coronavirus. PolitiFact pointed out that “there was nearly a full minute between when the president said ‘coronavirus’ and ‘hoax.’” also said that the claim was false.

The Times has pulled off an amazing trifecta. It links a segment from Sean Hannity with someone’s death, when the broadcast occurred after the cruise started. It then made it seem as though Fox News and Hannity were making false claims — at the very same time that the New York Times and the reporter who wrote this piece were telling people not to worry. And it claims that Hannity was saying the virus was a hoax, when he was saying nothing of the sort. 

Monday morning quarterbacking is always easy, but the New York Times and its reporter have forgotten their track records from less than two months ago. There is a lot of hypocrisy in going after others for not recognizing dangers that you didn’t even see yourself. What must gall the Times is that Donald Trump saw these dangers well before they did.

The piece is available here.

For those interested, here is a list of actions taken by the Trump administration regarding the Coronavirus between January 6th and March 18th.




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