A group of journalism professors led by New York University’s Jay Rosen has sent an open letter to the heads of several national news networks calling on them to stop airing the Trump administration’s coronavirus briefings live.
“Because Donald Trump uses them as a platform for misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, they have become a serious public health hazard–a matter of life and death for viewers who cannot easily identify his falsehoods, lies and exaggerations,” reads the letter from Rosen, Susan Douglas of The University of Michigan, Todd Gitlin of Columbia University and Barbie Zelizer of the University of Pennsylvania. The four signees have encouraged other journalism professors and other academics to add their names to the letter.
The letter was addressed to ABC News President James Goldston, MSNBC President Phil Griffin, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, and WarnerMedia News Chairman Jeff Zucker, who oversees CNN.
The letter’s demands echo those Rosen has regularly made on his media analysis blog PressThink, where he has urged the media to not cover any of Donald Trump’s rallies or public speeches live. Instead, as the letter describes, he has called for the media to review briefings and to only report on statements from the president that can be verified by an outside source, pointing out when necessary where Trump is lying.
While Trump’s briefings have included pertinent information from medical officials like lead immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump himself has repeatedly promoted false information about possible coronavirus treatments. This past week, he suggested that infected patients be injected with disinfectant, prompting statements from Lysol and Clorox against any internal use of their products. He also promoted the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria and lupus but could lead to poisoning or death if misused. In the past week, the Food and Drug Administration has released warnings against using the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.
“While a long and established history of journalists covering presidential pronouncements and White House briefings exists, in their current form under this president, these briefings have degenerated into political rallies and forums for the president to denigrate his enemies,” the letter reads. “Journalists are not obligated to assist the president in amplifying his grievances or in misinforming the American people about the spread of the virus and what is actually being done and needs to be done to combat it.”
You can read the letter in its entirty by clicking here.