Last Wednesday, America announced its largest single day total since the pandemic started: 52,789 new coronavirus cases. On Thursday, it broke that record. And again Friday, when Arizona reported as many new cases as the entire European Union. No wonder Americans are no longer welcome for now in Europe: We’re home to 4 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its coronavirus cases.
More than 130,000 Americans have died. Dr. Anthony Fauci told Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week that “I think it is important to tell and you the American public that I’m very concerned because it could get very bad,” warning that the case count could go up to 100,000 a day.
Many of the president’s defenders have been virus truthers, including many of the most prominent talking heads on Rupert Murdoch’s industrial hate complex, who have been questioning the severity of the pandemic since its advent. Fox News has also provided a platform for some of the worst coronavirus truthers, like Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter and spy novelist who has built his own media following on the idea that most of mainstream media is “panic porn” and “the BS around masks.” No one would know who Alex was if it weren’t for Tucker Carlson. Between his appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Berenson occupies himself by trolling doctors and health-care workers on Twitter.
The irony is that Tucker was once the only Fox News talking head to take the virus seriously. But Tucker seems to have cycled through that boringly sane messaging, and moved back to the president’s talking points. He’s claimed that coronavirus deaths are “overinflated and possibly a hoax.” That opened the floodgates for baby Rush Limbaugh Mark Levin to declare that “when these television stations and networks put on their screen the number of confirmed cases of the viruses and next to it the number of deaths, it is extraordinarily misleading.” Even noted virologists Diamond and Silk accused the media of juicing the numbers to hurt Trump: “Now watch the number of deaths go up. Watch everything increase because they wanted to make it look bad in front of our eyes.” In reality, it’s more likely the coronavirus deaths are underreported.
Like everything in the Trump industrial media complex, this coronavirus trutherism is supported by a deep bench of batshit, conspiratorial “thought leaders.” On May 4, a video called “Plandemic” made many false claims, the most false of which was “that masks can make wearers sick, that sand from the beach can build up coronavirus immunity, and that as-yet-uninvented vaccines for the virus that has killed at least 75,000 people in the U.S. are dangerous.” Certainly some of this is Facebook’s fault. Nonprofit Avaaz found that it takes up to 22 days for Facebook to fact-check claims about COVID-19. There’s a lot of blame to go around. The Federalist, to name another guilty party, published a retired dermatologist’s opinion piece on how we should all get infected at coronavirus parties.
But a lot of the trutherism is coming from inside the Republican party. Retired congressman Ron Paul wrote on June 16 that, “There are no “hot spots” in Texas. It’s just more media hype.” His son Rand Paul, the worst senator, told Dr. Anthony Fauci that, “We just need more optimism.” You may remember that Rand actually swam in the Senate pool while waiting for his coronavirus test to come back. It turned out he was positive.
When I started this piece, I thought I would focus on all the colorful, idiotic, crooked fringe players pushing coronavirus trutherism, but of course the calls are coming from inside the house, with White House officials questioning their own government numbers. In a May press conference the president suggested the coronavirus death numbers were “lower than” the official government count and since March the president has been saying that “anyone who wants a test can get a test.” And while that may finally be true in places like New York it is certainly not true in all of America.
I’m so old, I remember Larry Kudlow saying in February that “we have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight” and America’s favorite liar, Kellyanne Conway, saying in March that the coronavirus outbreak was being contained and the Trump administration was increasing testing around the country.
Of course all of this makes sense when you realize that the worst coronavirus truther is the President of the United States. You know, the guy who has pretty much continually spread misinformation this entire time, including saying that sunlight and bleach might just cure this and declaring that he was taking the experimental malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine, not because he had the virus but just to be “safe”: “I take a pill every day. At some point, I’ll stop. What I’d like to do is I’d like to have the cure and/or the vaccine. And that will happen, I think, very soon,”
And on July 1, the day America crossed the demarcation line with a single day record of 50,000 new cases, he said “I think we’re gonna be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”