But as Carlson was addressing his audience, a very different message was being aired on Fox Business.
“The chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo as Democrats blame him and only him for a virus that originated halfway around the world,” Trish Regan said on her prime-time program, displaying a graphic that read in all-caps, “CORONAVIRUS IMPEACHMENT SCAM.”
“This is yet another attempt to impeach the president,” she said.
The dueling narratives, which were broadcast simultaneously on the sister networks, came at the end of a particularly turbulent day for Trump, during which the number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in the United States continued to climb while the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 2,000 points.
While Carlson did not name any U.S. leaders, viewers interpreted his comments as a veiled jab at Trump and other Republicans over their handling of the crisis — a stance that has set the host apart from his fellow Fox personalities.
Referring to the outbreak as “an epidemic,” Carlson kicked off his show with a grave warning.
“People you know will get sick,” he said. “Some may die. This is real.”
The host didn’t entirely deviate from conservative talking points though. He ridiculed people for taking offense to covid-19 being called “the Chinese coronavirus” or the “Wuhan virus,” labels that critics on the left have decried as racist and diversionary. Throughout his monologue, Carlson repeatedly made note of the virus’s Chinese origin, a tactic recently used by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), among other Republicans.
Still, Carlson acknowledged that liberals weren’t the only group deserving of criticism amid the crisis.
“If we’re being honest, the other side has not been especially helpful either,” the host said, referring to Republicans. “People you trust, people you probably voted for, have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem. ‘It’s just partisan politics,’ they say, ‘Calm down.’ ‘In the end, this is just like the flu, and people die from that every year.’ ‘Coronavirus will pass. And when it does, we will feel foolish for worrying about it.’ That’s their position.”
Carlson, however, stressed that the coronavirus outbreak is “a major event.”
Citing the worsening situation in Italy, a country he likened to the United States, Carlson expressed concern about the future and worried that Monday’s stock market decline could be the harbinger of a global recession. On Monday, Trump unveiled several emergency measures aimed at protecting the economy, including a payroll tax and additional proposals to help hourly workers and industries affected by the virus.
Those efforts may not be enough, Carlson said.
“If a recession does hit, it will not be so simple to fight it,” he said. “The usual stimulus efforts, tax cuts and lower rates won’t reopen factories that have shut down to contain the virus. It won’t get people to eat at closed restaurants or shop and closed malls or attend to canceled sporting events.”
Though Carlson said the country “is likely to experience a painful period we are powerless to stop,” he advised people and elected leaders to remain calm, but not complacent.
“It does not mean assuring people that everything will be fine,” he said. “We don’t know that. Instead, it’s better to tell the truth. That is always the surest sign of strength. As they level with us, our leaders ought to prepare the public for what may come next.”
But as Carlson addressed his viewers, Regan struck a vastly different tone on her Fox Business show.
Beyond attacking Democrats, Regan took aim at the media for “using coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the president,” echoing a claim made by conservative hosts such as Rush Limbaugh in recent weeks.
“This is a time to be united, not to be pointing fingers, not to be encouraging hate,” she said. “And yet, what do we see? We see the absolute opposite from the left tonight.”
Regan went on to make the flu comparison that Carlson cautioned against and criticized what she described as a lack of media outrage over the outbreak of swine flu during the early years of the Obama administration.
“For the media to spin a narrative that this sell-off and this virus are all a result of President Trump, it’s just wrong,” Regan said. “But unfortunately, I guess they needed someone to blame, they were looking for someone to blame.”
On social media, observers called attention to the conflicting broadcasts. While many appeared surprised Carlson had emerged as the “voice of reason” on Fox, others mocked Regan, comparing her segment to a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.
One person described Regan as his “least favorite SNL cast member,” adding, “This skit needs work.”
But Regan did appear to have at least one supporter: Trump. Late Monday, Trump retweeted a clip from Regan’s show, appearing to agree with her assessment that he is being unfairly blamed for the outbreak.