"Fox & Friends" urged the public to adopt a "military mindset" to reopen the economy "right now" in spite of the threat posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of nearly 80,000 Americans.
One of the Fox News program's segments on Monday featured Pete Hegseth promoting a 45-minute Fox Nation special known as "Modern Warriors," which "looks at the pandemic from a military point of view." Hegseth is the co-host of the weekend edition of President Donald Trump's favorite morning show, as well as a former National Guard officer.
"A big theme of this is COVID-19 — but not the particulars of it," Hegseth said. "It's the reaction to it as human beings."
The special showcases former members of the military applying lessons learned from their service to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Hegseth mentions Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, as well as Ret. Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Jocko Willink.
"They break it down based on what they've seen on the battlefield," Hegseth said. "How they've transitioned back home. How you manage fear. How you manage anxiety. How you channel challenges."
In one clip, Hegseth asks U.S. Army Capt. Tyler Merritt: "What's your message right now to Americans in this moment?"
"There's a mantra within our unit, the Nightstalkers, that says: 'Serve with the pride and the memory of those who came before, because they fought to win, loved to fight and rather die than quit,'" the veteran tells Hegseth, who worked as an equity capital markets analyst at Bear Stearns before serving with the National Guard in Iraq.
An anti-social distancing protest movement has taken root among a small but vocal group of right-wing Americans, orchestrated and funded by Republican donors and conservative special interest organizations, including massive Facebook groups run by zero-tolerance gun-rights activists.
Fox News hosts from Tucker Carlson to Laura Ingraham have used their platforms to celebrate the anti-government protesters, some of whom attend rallies bearing guns. At an "American Patriots" rally in Michigan earlier this month, a group of militia members in military-style getups blocked the office of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after armed protesters entered the state capitol building.
In another clip, podcaster and former Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Jocko Willink — whose designer denim company Origins began producing three separate lines of stylized face coverings to help customers "#adaptandovercome" during the pandemic — tells Hegseth that "these hardships are what bring people together."
Though the vast majority of Americans oppose the protest movement, those who oppose lockdowns even believe Trump over Fox News, according to the Monmouth poll.
"You're used to fighting an enemy you can see coming at you, but this is so different because it's invisible," co-host Steve Doocy said to Hegseth.
"Yes, and it's psychological and it affects different people in different ways," Hegseth responded.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade followed up, asking: "Real quick, Pete — just your thoughts in 20 seconds. About 78,000 are dead. We understand how many got the virus and will — I get it. But at the same time, can you get the military mindset with the masses of 'take on the enemy, because we have no choice?' Sitting on the sideline will destroy the country. How do you get the military mindset for the everyday American?"
Hegseth responded, "The military mindset is a patriotic mindset. It's what forged and founded this country. It is courage. We can be responsible. We can follow guidelines while also reopening. We have to reopen, guys, right now, even in some of the more difficult places, or the livelihoods of people is going to crush more folks, or as many — I'm not talking in a statistical sense — as the actual virus itself. So I think we can muster it. We've done it before, guys, and I think this is another chance to rise to that challenge."
Hegseth did not explain in what sense he was invoking a numerical comparison. More than 79,607 Americans have died from COVID-19 to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Before signing off, Hegseth thanked Kilmeade for the heads-up he gave him prior to the show.
"Brian, I forgot my gel until you told me to put it on," he said before signing off.