President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The media coverage of the coronavirus issue has been pretty incredible the last week, and not in a good way. We’ve seen undue panic spread far and wide, misleading reports, and purposeful omissions target the White House as they move to combat the virus’ spread.
Whether it was criticism of the travel ban from places like Politico or erroneous claims that CDC funding had “been cut” under Trump (the AP debunked that), you’d be forgiven for thinking some in the media are actively rooting for things to get worse, at least economically. Couple that with pundits who claim to be journalists, like Brian Stelter, posting junk like this, and that’s far from an unfair conclusion to draw.
Since the dawn of the Trump era, countless experts have warned that the president's lack of credibility would imperil the country in the event of an emergency.
As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, those fears may be coming true… https://t.co/vFo8MJZV7i
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 26, 2020
One of the the themes that has been forming in reports the last few days is the idea that the President is “muzzling” officials in order to propagate some kind of cover-up. This is apparently proof of his gross mismanagement of a situation which has pretty clearly not been mismanaged.
An ABC News reporter tried to push that narrative today by presenting those reports as if they were fact. The response from Trump’s press conference on the matter was definitive
A reporter just asked President Trump: Why have you been muzzling Doctor Fauci?
"I’ve never been muzzled and I’ve been doing this since Reagan." Doctor Fauci responded. pic.twitter.com/qqqavAT4GR
— Francis Brennan (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@FrancisBrennan) February 29, 2020
It’s worth watching the video, as it’s fairly striking how the reporter conducts herself. She’s clearly repeating an unsubstantiated report in this case. Despite that, she wants Trump to make a pledge that he won’t muzzle Dr. Anthony Fauci, something he’s not done, nor given any indication of doing. A reporter’s job is to ask questions, not to make demands of elected officials. Of course, if Trump were to have obliged her, the media would then take that as proof that he had been previously muzzling officials. It’s all ridiculous.
Trump went on to tell the reporter that her question was dishonest (her framing was indeed objectively dishonest) and then, perhaps to her surprise, Dr. Anthony Fauci took the microphone and left no question that the “reports” were false. This is not a man who’s a partisan. He’s been working under every administration since Reagan and he unequivocally said the President had not tried to color his messaging at all, saying that was a misrepresentation of what had been happening.
It’s really not that difficult to not be rabidly partisan about a pandemic. But unfortunately, a lot of media figures and Trump opponents see this as an opportunity to handicap his election. It’s not a good look and I think it will backfire in the end.