He also raised the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was a plot orchestrated by North Korea and China.
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“The owner of a restaurant asked me last night, he said, do you remember the North Korean leader promised a Christmas present back in December?” Falwell said. “Could it be they got together with China and this is that present? I don’t know, but it really is something strange going on.”
But early on in the spread of the virus, experts on chemical biology rejected the notion that the virus can be man made. According to FactCheck.org,”Evidence suggests the virus likely spilled over to humans from an as-yet-unidentified animal, as has happened in the past for other coronaviruses.” Some Chinese officials and media outlets have promoted their own conspiracy theory that the U.S. was the source of the virus.
Falwell is one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders. But even the president, who initially downplayed and made false statements about the threat of the coronavirus, this week announced major restrictions on travel from European countries and has called for a major payroll tax cut.
Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy did not respond to the claim but then shifted the conversation to Liberty University’s decision to remain open even as other colleges and universities have announced plans to close as the outbreak spreads. Falwell is the president of Liberty.
Falwell drew immediate criticism for his comments and some called out Fox News for booking him. Bill Kristol, one of a number of conservative “Never-Trumpers,” wrote on Twitter, “Fox & Friends is on Fox News Channel, which is part of Fox Corporation, which has a board of directors: Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Chase Carey, Anne Dias, Roland A. Hernandez, Jacques Nasser, Paul Ryan. Have they no shame? No decency? No sense of responsibility?”
Fox & Friends is on Fox News Channel, which is part of Fox Corporation, which has a board of directors: Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Chase Carey, Anne Dias, Roland A. Hernandez, Jacques Nasser, Paul Ryan. Have they no shame? No decency? No sense of responsibility? https://t.co/6qW7UnjbEm
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 13, 2020
Before Trump’s Oval Office speech on Wednesday, some of Fox News’ and Fox Business’ hosts also suggested that the coronavirus was a Democratic and mainstream media attempt to overhype the outbreak and damage Trump. On Monday, Fox Business host Trish Regan opened her show on Monday with a segment called “coronavirus impeachment scam.” (On the same night, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson warned of the enormity of the crisis). On his radio show on Wednesday, Sean Hannity shared a theory that “coronavirus fear-mongering” was a “deep state” fraud. “May be true,” he said.
But on his Fox News show on Tuesday, Hannity did feature Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said that people have to realize that the coronavirus is at least 10 times more deadly than the common flu.
On Thursday, Hannity ran through Trump’s Oval Office address but also bemoaned some of the reaction to the speech from figures on CNN and even from Samantha Bee, the host of Full Frontal on TBS. He called it a “media smear” of the president, while also chiding the political left for “using this virus to bludgeon Donald Trump.”
Later in the show, though, when Hannity brought on guests Geraldo Rivera and Dan Boningo, the conservative commentator and radio host, who sparred over Trump’s response to the crisis. The guests sparred after Rivera criticized Trump’s speech, which included major errors.
After Boningo accused Rivera of “repeating Chinese propaganda,” Rivera responded, “Don’t give me that crap.” He called Boningo a “cheap shot artist,” and Boningo returned by calling him a “bullshit artist.” Snapped Rivera, “You are lucky you are not in front of me, big guy.”
Other conservative commentators say that they have gotten pushback for suggesting the the coronavirus is a big deal.
Erick Erickson wrote on Friday that he is “bombarded by the conspiracists who ride a wave of media self-immolation to discredit even the basic scientific knowledge we have about COVID-19.”
“The media is very good at providing the President’s supporters ammunition to claim this whole thing is a partisan scare campaign. One need not be a conspiracy theorist to recognize the bulk of the mainstream media really does want to bring down this administration,” he wrote. “But ultimately, to do that, we must believe that Italy, Belgium, Denmark, and Ireland have joined the American media, Disney, the rest of the Fortune 500, the NCAA, the NBA, MLB, and MLS in a grand conspiracy to take out the President by tanking the economy.
“If you believe that, I can’t help you.”
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