Dr. Phil — who is not a doctor — recently appeared on Laura Ingraham's show on Fox News to spew lies and reiterate faulty talking points about the COVID-19 pandemic. It needs to be said that the fact that Laura Ingraham had him on her show as some sort of "expert opinion" is wildly irresponsible, to begin with, but you know that and I know that.
The problem is that some of our parents and grandparents don't know that. And that's the core of Fox News's audience. Here's what he said:
"Two-hundred-and-fifty people die a year from poverty," Dr. Phil — who is not a doctor — yells into the camera, "and the poverty line is getting such that more and more people are going to fall below that because the economy is crashing around us. And they're doing that because people are dying from the coronavirus, I get that."
He could have stopped there. But he didn't. He added a "but." "But," he says, "look, the fact of the matter is, we have people dying... 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools but we don't shut the country down for that. But yet, we're doing it for this. And the fallout is going to last for years because people's lives are being destroyed."
Well, he's right about that last point. People's lives are being destroyed...by the coronavirus. He's plainly arguing to prioritize the health of the economy over the health of the people who live in this country. It's that simple.
If we open up the economy soon, tell people to go back to work and stop social distancing, so many more people are doing to die from COVID-19, and that will damage the economy even further. We have not reached the peak of this thing yet. It's absurd to think we can go back to work in two weeks without risking hundreds of thousands of American lives.
In addition to that, Dr. Phil — who is not a doctor — got his facts wrong.
Let's talk about this Republican penchant to compare COVID-19 deaths to deaths from car accidents, cigarette usage, and swimming pool accidents. It's illogical. None of these things is contagious. Car accidents don't spread from person to person by sneezing or coughing.
We don't shut the country down for swimming pool accidents or deaths from using cigarettes because you can't catch those by simply being out in public with other people. How is this so hard to understand for grown adults?
Secondly, Dr. Phil — who is not a doctor — went on national TV and confidently stated a severely overblown number of deaths from swimming pool accidents. As Michael Skolnik points out, the actual number is 3,600, which is very different from 360,000. I highly doubt Laura Ingraham or anyone else bothered to fact-check him in real-time, which means they are all at fault here for perpetuating lies. But isn't that what Fox News does best?
People like Dr. Phil — who is not a doctor — should not be given a national platform to speak as an expert on the COVID-19 pandemic. Period. But we clearly haven't learned that lesson yet, since he's the second TV "doctor" this week to appear on TV saying idiotic things.
Earlier this week, Dr. Oz — who is a doctor, unlike Dr. Phil, but remember that there are such things as bad doctors — appeared on Fox News (surprise, surprise) to advocate for reopening schools because "only" two to three percent of kids would die. Yes, really.
He has since walked back his comments without exactly apologizing, a particular talent of white men. It's not that the issue of reopening schools and the rest of the country isn't a complicated issue. It's that these men seem more than willing to put vulnerable populations on the line to do so, to get back to "normal."
They only worry about themselves and have no regard for poor and minority populations that have been and will continue to be hit harder by this virus thanks to entrenched racist systems and the lack of comprehensive free healthcare in this nation.
In short, don't trust these jokers. There are so many real doctors and reporters out there doing so much important and responsible work right now. Factual information, while it's ever-developing, is not hard to find. One place that certainly doesn't report the facts or interview credible experts is Fox News.