Bill Maher Rips Media’s ‘Panic Porn': ‘Calm Down and Treat Us Like Adults’ (Video)

“You know the problem with nonstop gloom and doom is it gives Trump the chance to play the optimist. And optimists tend to win American elections,” Maher says

Last Updated: April 18, 2020 @ 10:19 AM

On this week’s “Real Time,” Bill Maher took issue with how people, especially in the media, have been reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. Expressing the worry that “panic porn” will cede any optimism about this crisis to President Trump, Maher complained about how news organizations have covered the pandemic, saying media should “calm down and treat us like adults.”

“Now that we’re starting to see some hope in all this, don’t hope-shame me,” Maher began. “You know the problem with nonstop gloom and doom is it gives Trump the chance to play the optimist. And optimists tend to win American elections.”

As an example, Maher cited Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” then said he worries that “as s— as he is, I can see Trump riding that into a second term. And then there will be no hope left for you to shame.”

Maher turned his attention specifically to the media. “If this insanity happens, again, news sources have to rein it in. Everyone knows corona is no walk in the park because you literally can’t walk in the park. But at some point, the daily drumbeat of depression and terror veers into panic porn,” Maher continued. “Enough with the ‘life will never be the same’ headlines.”

He noted a recent Washington Post headline that read “It Feels Like a War Zone,” which included a photograph of a supermarket stocker unloading boxes in a store’s eggs and deli meats section. “This is not a war zone,” he said. “This is a man with a box of eggs. And I’ve never seen a war zone with this much bacon.”

A recent news story on “Inside Edition” also drew Maher’s criticism. “Two weeks ago, ‘Inside Edition’ said 76,000 in the world had died so some are making comparisons to the apocalypse. The apocalypse? Really? Because most of us are sitting at home smoking delivery weed and binge-watching a show about a gay zookeeper,” Maher said. “Unless you’re a front-line health care worker for whom the phrase ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, this is not the apocalypse.

“And I know, I know, you expect ‘Inside Edition’ to be over the top but The New York Times?” Maher went on. “They used the same word last week. ‘Braced for Apocalyptic Surge, New York Avoids Worst So Far.'” (That headline was later changed to “Virus Deaths Mount, but N.Y. Avoids Predicted Surge at Hospitals So Far.”)

“And this was an article about how much better the city was doing than expected… Still bad, but you don’t have to put hot sauce on a jalapeno.”

Maher cited another New York Times headline, “‘It’s Terrifying': Millions More Out of Work,” adding, “What the f— is ‘it’s terrifying’ doing in a headline? Granted, it’s a quote, but who are they quoting? Trump? Fauchi? Stephen King? No, they’re quoting an event planner in North Hollywood. No offense to the event planners of the world, it’s amazing what you people can do with pine cones and silver spray paint.”

Maher complained that he’d rather get a straight headline and make his own decision about how to feel. “There was never headlines like this before,” he said. “There was no ‘It’s terrifying: Planes hit World Trade Center. There was no ‘It’s sad: Titanic sinks after hitting iceberg’ or ‘First atomic bomb dropped: OUCH!'”

Maher wasn’t entirely accurate here. For instance, on Sept. 12, 2001, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s front page headline was “None of Us Will Ever Forget,” and the Denver Post ran with “Darkest Hour.” Meanwhile, on Aug 7, 1945 the New York Herald-Tribune’s front page read “Atomic Bomb Revolutionizes War,” while the New York Daily News headline about the event included a racial slur.

But back to Maher: “The media also seems obsessed with finding young people who’ve died of COVID-19,” he continued. “The Washington Post says there’s 759 under 50 years old. Horrible, of course. Then I looked up how many under 50 died of the flu last year: almost 3,000.”

“So all this misery from distancing did some good,” Maher said, returning to the point. “Can I be happy about that? Death is terrible, of course, no matter how it comes. I’m against it, and I don’t care who knows it. But giving a proper perspective isn’t a cover up of the truth, it is the truth. Sudden dramatic deaths, like plane crashes, shark attacks, tornadoes, mass shootings, terrorism, awful as they are, kill far less than seasonal flu. Even hospital-acquired infections may very well kill more than coronavirus. 99,000 of them last year. 50,000 die of nephritis every year. And I don’t even know what that is.”

“22 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and many will lose their health insurance. Studies show lacking health insurance kills people. But it doesn’t lead to pictures like this” — he showed a photo of a a mass grave — “And it doesn’t happen all at once.”

“We need the news to calm down and treat us like adults,” Maher concluded. “Trump calls you fake news, don’t make him be right?”

Watch the full segment above.

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