Dozens of journalism professors and working journalists signed an open letter calling on Fox News to stop spreading “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic in an open letter to Rupert Murdoch and Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch on Wednesday.
The academics and journalists accused the network of violating “elementary canons of journalism,” and argued that the cable news channel had “contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic” with its irresponsible coverage of the novel coronavirus.
“Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network—false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities,” the letter reads.
Their letter also urged Fox News to protect its elderly viewers by basing its coronavirus coverage on scientific facts. Senior citizens are one of the two most at-risk demographics to experience fatal complications from the virus, the other being people with underlying health conditions.
74 journalism / comms professors + journalists have written an open letter to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch about the network's coronavirus coverage.
"Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation…" pic.twitter.com/Vpk04Tc9es
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) April 2, 2020
“Yet by commission as well as omission—direct, uncontested misinformation as well as failure to report the true dimensions of the crisis—Fox News has been derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19,” the letter reads.
The open letter accuses Fox News hosts of minimizing the dangers of the novel coronavirus, and encouraging President Donald Trump to “trivialize the threat” posed by the ongoing pandemic.
It also noted that the network’s reporters were not necessarily at fault, saying they had done “some solid reporting” on the COVID-19 outbreak.
But the signatories added: “The basic purpose of news organizations is to discover and tell the truth. This is especially necessary, and obvious, amid a public health crisis. Television bears a particular responsibility because even more millions than usual look there for reliable information.
“Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic.
“Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans—including your elderly viewers—by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.”