The nation’s television news outlets, especially the three major cable-news networks, are grappling with a nagging paradox as President Donald Trump continues to orchestrate his White House briefings on the novel coronavirus pandemic.
On the one hand, their ratings have never been higher, and viewers’ appetites for the live sessions have shown no signs of dwindling. On the other hand, journalists and executives at MSNBC, CNN, and the often Trump-friendly Fox News—which scored an impressive 6.2 million viewers for Sunday’s installment of the Trump show, according to Nielsen—are increasingly facing the likelihood that they are becoming an uncritical and unvetted transmission belt for propaganda and misinformation.
Despite internal handwringing among producers and journalists as the week unfolded, however, the bosses at MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News once again decided on Thursday to broadcast every moment of Trump’s self-congratulatory and largely fact-free cheerleading live as the United States achieved the dubious milestone of becoming the world’s No. 1 coronavirus-infected country—surpassing even China’s 81,000-plus cases by more than 2,000, with twice China’s death rate.
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