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‘China has blood on its hands’: Fox News hosts join Trump in blame-shifting

Fox News host Laura Ingraham during her Wednesday show. (Image via Fox News)

On Wednesday night, several of Fox News’s most popular personalities sent a clear message to their audiences: There is only one country to blame for the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

“This calamity, this pandemic, was avoidable,” Tucker Carlson said on his prime-time show. “It happened because China hid the truth about what was happening from the rest of the world.”

Hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham took their criticisms of China even further.

“Their months-long coverup is now causing death and destruction and carnage all over the world,” Hannity said.

“China has blood on its hands,” Ingraham gravely told viewers.

The finger-pointing that unfolded over three hours of television came just as some Fox News figures were beginning to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic and the threat it poses to the United States and the rest of the world. For several weeks, as The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison reported, President Trump’s allies on Fox News, with the exception of Carlson, were inclined to take the same stance that the president himself promoted: the novel coronavirus, which had sickened and killed thousands of people worldwide, was no worse a threat than the seasonal flu.

Now, having changed their tune on the seriousness of the crisis, they appear to be working on narratives that explain away the Trump administration’s widely acknowledged inadequacies in addressing it.

Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for results: Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response

Trump appears to be engaged in the same effort. He too had minimized the threat until just this week, at which point he stopped referring to the novel virus by its scientific name and instead switched to calling it the “Chinese virus.” Along with “Wuhan virus,” the label has been used by conservatives amid the outbreak, sparking accusations of racism from Chinese officials and many Asian Americans. Trump told reporters Tuesday that he started using “Chinese virus” in response to China “putting out information which was false that our military gave [the virus] to them.”

“Rather than having an argument, I said I had to call it where it came from. It did come from China,” Trump said. “So I think it’s a very accurate term.”

Over the month of March 2020, many Fox News anchors and personalities went from doubting the seriousness of coronavirus to calling it a public health crisis. (Video: The Washington Post)

At a news conference Wednesday, Trump defended his repeated usage of the term but stopped short of assigning full blame to China, saying, “I don’t know if you’d say China is to blame. Certainly, we didn’t get an early run on it. It would have been helpful if we knew about it earlier.”

Early missteps and state secrecy in China probably allowed the coronavirus to spread farther and faster

Meanwhile, the Fox News hosts, all of whom are ardent Trump supporters, didn’t hold back.

Kicking things off at 8 p.m., Carlson went after the media for complaining about U.S. leaders calling the virus “Chinese,” suggesting this type of outrage is exactly what China wants.

“They know that wokeness is our Achilles’ heel and they know they can control us with it,” said Carlson, who has referred to covid-19 as the “Chinese coronavirus” on-air. “They know that any conversation in this country, no matter how serious, can be shut down instantly by somebody saying, ‘Racism.’ That’s why they’re pushing it.”

The bashing of China continued with Hannity, who told viewers at the top of his show, “We have a very serious message for China’s hostile dictatorship.”

“China must be held accountable,” Hannity said, accusing the foreign country’s leaders of "[caring] more about optics than the lives of not only their own citizens, but the world community."

It is true, as The Washington Post’s Gerry Shih, Emily Rauhala and Lena H. Sun reported in February, that Chinese officials did little to inform the public about the outbreak during its early stages and sought to downplay the risk of human-to-human transmission.

But Trump has also been accused of minimizing the virus.

“We have it totally under control,” the president said on Jan. 22.

“We’re in very good shape,” he said on Feb. 14.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” he tweeted on Feb. 24.

A timeline of Trump playing down the coronavirus threat

There are now at least 218,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and more than 8,700 reported deaths. In the U.S., thousands have been infected and the death toll had reached 137 by early Thursday.

The actions of the Chinese government left Hannity seething Wednesday night.

“People all over the world suffering and dying as a result of these lies,” the host said.

At the end of his hour, Hannity passed the torch to Ingraham to finish out the night.

In her opening monologue, Ingraham stressed the importance of cooperation as health experts worldwide work toward finding a vaccine. The need for “openness” applies especially to China, she said.

“If they're not operating in total transparency regarding this disease, then we have to ask ourselves why we want to continue to be integrated with them at all on any issue,” Ingraham said.

The host then delivered a pointed warning to Chinese leaders.

“President Xi and his Politburo have to come clean here or we need to reconsider or consider, frankly, taking severe measures against Beijing,” she said, suggesting the possible implementation of tariffs and travel limitations, among other actions.

“Much, if not all of this, could have been avoided if China had only been forthcoming from Day One,” Ingraham later added. “My friends, this cannot stand.”