Fox News host Jesse Watters admitted on Monday that he hasn't been taking the coronavirus crisis seriously — but he has finally changed his mind.
"I went to visit my mom this weekend and she made me wear gloves to come inside of her house. She is suspicious that I might have coronavirus," he said. "I wore the gloves all afternoon in the house. That's what it is. I didn't take the social distancing that seriously Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. I went out to dinner here in the city. And I woke up this morning I realized that was not the right move. I am no longer going out to dinner. I was trying to help my local restaurants."
Media Matters first pointed out the segment.
While the urge to support the economy is an understandable one, it was really shortsighted. The longer the coronavirus epidemic is raging in the United States, the worse it will be for the economy. That's why experts are recommending we engage in strict social distancing — limiting unnecessary contact outside the home, avoiding restaurants, bars, and other gatherings, and working from home if possible. These measures will cause some economic pain now, but hopefully, it will limit the duration of the crisis. And if Congress can get its act together, it can pass policies to mitigate the economic damage and alleviate suffering for individuals and families.
Watters' epiphany doesn't seem contained to him. While President Donald Trump has been consistently downplaying the seriousness of the crisis, on Monday, he finally seemed to be singing a different tune. The Washington Post documented that Fox News more broadly has been shifting its messaging. And Martin Longman of Washington Monthly argued that, though conservative Americans have been less likely to take the threat seriously, this is bound to change:
The explanation isn't hard to find. Republicans believed President Trump when he said this wasn't a serious crisis and that it was being hyped by the "fake" media and his political enemies to make him look bad and hurt his chances of being reelected.
However, the president isn't saying this anymore. It's true that he's still complaining about the news coverage, but he now recognizes that he's got a major problem on his hands. Perhaps he will be partially successful in keeping the anxiety level low with conservatives by issuing more happy-talk about how the stock market is happy and his response is great and this pandemic will quickly pass, but those statements will be severely tested by reality in the coming months. Eventually, it's likely that conservatives will revert to their normal pattern of being the most panicked portion of the population.