In a critical health crisis like the one we are experiencing, no single activity is more important than the role of the news media.
People need the best information on the nature of the threat, how they can protect themselves, what to do if they suspect they are infected, etc.
On March 25, President Trump conducted a daily briefing on the coronavirus. Attorney General Barr was there to warn people about price gouging. Health experts were there to update everyone on the latest information about testing – including the promise of a soon-to-be-approved test that can detect the virus with a finger prick and produce results in a matter of minutes.
But you wouldn’t learn any of this if you read the New York Times the next morning. An article by Michael Grynbaum managed to stretch 23 paragraphs long without giving readers a single fact that was conveyed at the briefing.
The article could easily be Exhibit A in the case that the New York Times is a regular source of Fake News
For example, the writer informs us that “Mr. Trump has repeatedly delivered information that doctors and public health officials have called ill informed, misleading or downright wrong.”
What, you might ask, is an example of information that is ill informed, misleading or downright wrong?
Grynbaum informs us that Trump has encouraged the use of medications that have yet to be proved effective against the virus; on Monday, a man in Arizona died after he and his wife consumed a form of chloroquine, a drug that Mr. Trump has promoted on the air.
So President Trump is encouraging people to poison themselves? Well not quite.
Here is what Grynbaum concealed from his readers. One drug the president has talked about is chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that has been in use for 85 years and is apparently quite safe. But instead of pharmaceutical chloroquine, the Arizona man ingested a highly toxic version meant for aquariums and fish ponds.
It gets worse. Grynbaum also neglected to mention that this is one of two malaria drugs that seem to help patients recover faster in Europe. Moreover, the front page of the New York Times the previous day carried an article on how doctors themselves apparently believe these drugs are worth a try, since they are hoarding the drugs for possible personal use. Is it conceivable that Grynbaum doesn’t read his own newspaper?
Grynbaum was correct to say that malaria drugs have never been approved for the coronavirus. What he kept from the readers is the fact that one in five of all drugs prescribed in the United States are “off label” – prescribed for a use that has never undergone a controlled clinical trial and never been approved for that use by the FDA. The president was encouraging doctors to approach the coronavirus the way they typically approach other health problems.
In what must have been acutely embarrassing for the New York Times, things took a radical turn for the better four days later. That’s when the FDA took the highly unusual step of issuing an emergency use authorization, allowing the malaria drugs to be used by doctors to treat coronavirus. The Department of Health and Human Services in a statement announced that Sandoz had donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine and Bayer had donated 1 million doses of chloroquine to a federal stockpile to be distributed to physicians.
In addition to Fake News Exhibit A, there are Exhibits B, C, D, and so forth and they appear on a daily basis.
Donald Trump has mobilized the private sector in a way that is hard to imagine any other president doing. Company after company has stepped forward to help – often at significant financial loss. If you don’t watch the daily White House briefings you might not know this. Most of what is happening isn’t even reported by the mainstream media.
And what is reported is often wrong, including ten often repeated untrue statements. Of all the institutions involved in responding to the coronavirus, the American public gives the worst score to the media (55 percent disapproval) according to Gallup.
When Donald Trump meets with the press there are certain reporters who never ask a question that would be useful to any viewer. Their questions are always gotcha questions – trying to find contradictions between what the president says today and what he said three weeks ago or trying to find conflict between the president’s statements and those of his advisors or in other ways trying to embarrass, humiliate or demean the person who holds the highest office in the land.
If you find that annoying, don’t read the editorial pages of the New York Times. That’s just about all you’ll find there.
The New York Times is obsessed with Donald Trump. If you read its editorial page, you already know that rarely is there any useful information about COVID-19. Instead, in column after column, you find ceaseless, interminable, unending attacks on the president. (And remember, this is in time of “war.”)
The other day a Times editorial was three columns wide – extending from the top of the page all the way down to the bottom, with two big photographs to boot. It was entitled “D.J.T Is No F.D.R.”
What did it say? I don’t know. I didn’t read it.