We would expect that anyone who has seen even just a handful of courtroom dramas, be it movies or television shows, has at some point heard a character — not a real lawyer, just an actor — object to the judge because the other not-real attorney was “leading the witness.”
Those who watched a Fox News interview Sunday, May 3 with Gov. Larry Hogan saw just that, only in a journalistic setting rather than a courtroom. And that is fine on its face. But the reporting that came out of that interview was deeply disconcerting.
In a segment leading into a town hall that evening with President Donald Trump, Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum asked Hogan, who also is chairman of the National Governors Association, three times whether he thought the federal government had provided states with ample coronavirus testing supplies.
Hogan and Trump, both Republicans, have been at odds in respect to testing capacity. Hogan told CNN last month that statements made by Trump about states having the testing capacity necessary to begin reopening the economy was “absolutely false.” Hogan procured 500,000 testing kits from South Korea with assistance from his wife, who hails from there. Trump’s response was to say the effort was “unnecessary” and that Hogan needed “better knowledge.”
So, as Fox News was preparing for the virtual town hall with Trump — whose advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner called the federal government’s response to the pandemic that is continuing to claim lives in Cecil County, Maryland and throughout the nation a “great success story” — anchors Baier and MacCallum sought to lead Hogan into saying Maryland has the testing supplies it needs.
“I don’t think there’s any governor in America that would say we have everything we need with respect to testing. We’ve all been fighting and clawing to try to find all of these different components. I think the federal government has done a good job of stepping up. I think they’re trying to ramp up production,” Hogan said when asked a second time about testing. “All of the 50 states have been fighting to get more supplies on our own and the federal government’s been trying to work on that as well.”
After three consecutive questions about testing capacity, the anchors did not get the soundbite they were clearly angling for: Maryland and the other 49 states have the testing capacity they need thanks to the Trump administration. Hogan never even said the president’s name.
We watched the interview. Then, we read the story on the interview posted on the Fox News site. The headline alone raised eyebrows: “Maryland Gov. Hogan walks back Trump criticism over coronavirus testing, says WH doing ‘good job stepping up.’”
Here’s the first line: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, in a Sunday interview with Fox News, walked back his earlier criticism over insufficient coronavirus testing from the Trump administration, and praised the administration’s efforts to provide states with adequate medical supplies during the pandemic.”
That is not what happened at all. Hogan did not walk back any of his previous criticism. Not once. He offered no apology for previous statements, nor did he say states have the testing capacity they need, despite what that headline wants to lead readers to believe. And while he thanked the federal government, his statements were hardly effusive, so we’re not sure we would count them as “praise.”
“Walking back” is what Trump did when he asked medical professionals at a news conference to look into whether or not disinfectants — cleaning products — could be used inside the body as they kill the coronavirus. The next day, as criticism over the comments mounted, Trump tried to walk it back by saying he was being sarcastic. There was no sarcasm in how he asked about the disinfectants.
Truth in presentation of the news matters. Always. Period. Whether it is about a pandemic, a war or a town council meeting, we here at the Cecil Whig do not tailor stories to meet a preset narrative. It’s challenging enough for people to know what is going on when our leaders — even those within the same political party — are at odds over reopening the economy.
We are facing a mounting crisis, not one that is on the wane. New patients are testing positive for coronavirus daily in Maryland. People are dying. There is no definitive treatment, nor a preventative vaccine. Even as case rates stabilize, experts within the Trump administration are warning of a potential and potent return of the virus this fall.
What we saw come from Fox News — a false headline and opening paragraph — is a disservice to those who turn to the network for information. People need to know the truth about what is happening, not campaign rhetoric couched as journalism.