How Fox News is supercharging the coronavirus protests - 2020-04-21
In recent days, thousands of people have protested against coronavirus lockdowns in states across the country. The demonstrators—often wearing MAGA gear and directing their ire at Democratic governors—still represent a small minority; polls show that most Americans are actually worried the shutdowns will be ended too soon. But according to Matt Gertz, that could change quickly. Gertz, a senior fellow at the liberal group Media Matters for America, points out that Fox News has thrown its full weight behind the protests and that Donald Trump has followed the right-wing network's lead. "Once you have Fox News and President Trump championing these protests for a while," Gertz predicts, "you'll see polarization kick in, I think, and Republicans begin to support them in larger numbers."
Between April 13 and April 19, Fox devoted a whopping 4 hours and 23 minutes—across 69 separate segments—to covering the protests, a Media Matters report found. All this is eerily reminiscent of 2009, when Fox helped turn the nascent tea party movement into a powerful anti-Obama political force by relentlessly promoting its rallies. (Disclosure: I worked with Gertz at Media Matters back then.) On Monday, I spoke with Gertz about Fox's coverage of the anti-social distancing demonstrations, its impact on Trump, and the striking similarities to what happened a decade ago. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Beginning a little bit last Tuesday and then picking up rather heavily on Wednesday through the end of last week and Monday, we've seen steady promotion of protests across the country on Fox, frequent packaged reports, as well as lots of pundit chatter about the protests. Of course, because it's Fox News, it's all heavily inflected with comments in support of the protests, in praise of what they're doing and what they represent, in hopes that they spread further across the country. On Wednesday, we tabulated a dozen segments that Fox ran discussing the protests. That was the day of the Lansing, Michigan, protest, which gave the story a bit more attention nationally.