Fox Nation's Diamond & Silk falsely claim number of COVID-19 cases is inflated to hurt Trump

Fox personalities have been criticized for downplaying the virus and labeling critics of the response as anti-Trump

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 31, 2020 12:22PM (EDT)

Lynette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson (Fox News)
Lynette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson (Fox News)

Fox Nation hosts Lynette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson falsely claimed Monday that the media has reported an increase in the number of COVID-19-related deaths in an attempt to hurt President Donald Trump.

"In a matter of two weeks, over 1,000 people supposedly died from the coronavirus (in America)," Silk said Monday. "In a two weeks time period, over 1,000 people — after being tested positive — have died from the coronavirus." 

From mid-January through the end of February, only one person died, Silk said. The two women, who are outspoken supporters of the president, then suggested there was something suspicious about the sudden uptick in the death rate linked to the coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11.

"Here's another thing. My president said, on March the 24th — Tuesday, this past week — my president said that he would love for America to be back up and running," Silk added, with Diamond affirming: "I knew this was going to happen."

"At the time, he said it there was 25,489 cases with 307 deaths," Silk continued. "Instantaneously, you had the media calling President Trump out. He want it open by Easter. He want this open by Easter. Me and you was talking — I said, 'Now watch the number of deaths go up. Watch everything increase, because they wanted to make it look bad in front of our eyes.' Here it is, five days later. As of yesterday, it jumped from 25,489 cases up to 121,478 cases. It went from 307 deaths to 2,026 deaths in five days."

The first U.S. death from COVID-19 was announced Feb. 29, and the victim being a 58-year-old man from Seattle, according to The Washington Post. The official death toll reached 702 victims by March 24, with 154 victims being first reported dead the same day. More than 53,000 people were diagnosed with the disease by March 24, with more than 10,000 diagnosis announced the same day. 

There are more than 163,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with almost 3,000 confirmed deaths as of Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. The death toll from the pandemic now roughly matches the number of Americans killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Diamond & Silk are not the only Fox personalities to downplay the coronavirus or to attempt to characterize critics of the federal government's slow response as anti-Trump. Sean Hannity spent much of March labeling the pandemic as a "hoax" and arguing that public health experts were "scaring people unnecessarily." His colleague, Laura Ingraham, initially praised Trump for denying the severity of the pandemic, arguing that his critics were "panic pushers." She characterized the Centers for Disease Control as "a highly politicized organization," though it is not.

Fox Business Network host Trish Regan told her viewers that "this is impeachment all over again. And like with the Mueller investigation, like with Ukraine-gate, they don't care who they hurt. Whether it be their need to create mass hysteria to encourage a market sell-off unlike anything we've seen recently, or whether it be to create mass hysteria to stop our economy dead in its tracks, don't kid yourself. They told us how much they crave a recession as a way to get rid of Donald Trump." (Regan was later dismissed from Fox Business Network.)

Fox News has recently started scaling back its coronavirus denialism, with Vanity Fair's Gabe Sherman reporting that Fox News insiders were concerned that the network could face "potential legal action" from viewers over its misleading coverage of the new coronavirus.

"I've heard Trish Regan's being taken off the air is, you know, reflective of this concern that Fox News is in big trouble by downplaying this virus, and The New York Times reported days ago that the Murdoch family was privately taking the coronavirus seriously," Sherman said during a Sunday appearance on MSNBC. 

"The Murdochs, of course, own Fox News. So, they were taken personal steps to protect themselves, while anchors like Trish Regan and Sean Hannity were telling viewers that it's a hoax and putting themselves in potentially mortal danger," he conitnued. "So I think this is a case where Fox's coverage, if it actually winds up being proved that people died because of it, this is a new terrain in terms of Fox being possibly held liable for their actions."

Watch the full clip below via Media Matters for America:

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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