Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some conservative radio talkers downplayed covid-19 threat and criticized efforts to blunt its spread, ProPublica reports

President Trump and Mark Levin in the Oval Office on Oct. 8
(Photo by Leah Millis, Reuters)
Several conservative radio talk-show hosts, "including at least four of the 12 most listened to as measured by Talkers," an industry magazine, "have downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and criticized efforts to blunt its spread," Jack Gillum and Derek Willis report for ProPublica.

The reporters researched archives of TVEyes.com and Cortico, a noprofit that says it works with the MIT Media Lab "to foster constructive public conversation in communities and the media that improves our understanding of one another."

Even after President Trump declared March 13 that the coronavirus and its covid-19 disease constituted a national emergency, "Some hosts groused that aggressive measures to contain the disease were a political ploy to undercut the president or ram through unpopular Democratic legislation," ProPublica reports. Polling before Trump's declaration showed considerably less concern among Republicans about the virus than among Democrats; that gap has since narrowed.

Several hosts, including the nationally syndicated Mark Levin, compared covid-19 to seasonal flu, even though it has a higher mortality rate, a much higher hospitalization rate, and a much longer incubation period, allowing people who don't have symptoms to spread the virus unwittingly. "Also, unlike the flu, covid-19 has no vaccine or approved treatment," the reporters note. "Although the hosts conceded that some level of concern about covid-19 is justified, their skepticism could deter their audiences from self-quarantining, social distancing and other behavioral changes that health officials say are necessary."

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