Television personalities Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz came under fire this week for comments on Fox News prime-time shows, joining fellow celebrity sawbones Dr. Drew in facing criticism for callous or misleading statements about the coronavirus, and adding to complaints over the way Fox News has covered the pandemic.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, who gained notoriety as a popular guest on the
The Oprah Winfrey Show in the early 2000s before launching his own Dr. Oz Show, suggested Tuesday in an interview with Sean Hannity that opening schools “may only cost us 2% to 3% in terms of total mortality,” adding that “might be a tradeoff some folks would consider.”
Oz apologized for his comments Friday after fierce backlash, saying “I’ve realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention.”
Phillip McGraw, known as Dr. Phil, though, is a psychologist—and who also came to fame through visits with Oprah Winfrey before launching his own eponymous show— compared the coronavirus inaccurately to other causes of deaths, including car accidents, during a Thursday interview with host Laura Ingraham.
“45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 from swimming pools—but we don’t shut the country for that,” he said.
Last month, Dr. Drew Pinsky, known for hosting both the long-running radio show
Loveline and reality TV show Celebrity Rehab, came under fire for downplaying the threat of the virus early on, calling it “press-induced panic” in early March and comparing it to the flu—and apologized last week, saying, “I wish I had gotten it right, but I got it wrong.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter took aim at Fox News for allowing unqualified, so-called experts on the network. “It’s incumbent on Fox News management to stop these embarrassing segments from getting on the air, to have these quack doctors misleading the public on live TV,” Stelter said on air Friday.
Fox News has come under fire for its coronavirus coverage over the past few months. Host Trish Reagan and Fox Business Network mutually parted ways after she said in early March that Democrats were exaggerating the dangers of the coronavirus in order to impeach Trump. Days later, 74 journalism professors lambasted the network in an open letter for subjecting its audience to “misinformation,” including attempts to downplay the severity of the virus and “recommendations of untested drugs.”
Both the federal government and regional alliances of states are beginning to lay the groundwork for a careful reopening of the country, as some areas are seeing hopeful signs that hospitalizations and new cases are flattening. But the battle over how and when to relax strict social distancing measures has pitted Trump against some states—including Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota—though ultimately it will be up to individual governors to decide when the restrictions will end.