A progressive group plans to run ads during Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in 14 states, aiming to counter the popular ultra-conservative talk-show host’s misinformation about the severity of the coronavirus and his criticisms of government scientists.
“Fox News and their friends ― and I mean that broadly, not in reference to the program ― has turned a global pandemic into a litmus test about loyalty to Donald Trump,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist and former Democratic congressional candidate who leads the group 314 Action, which is focused on backing candidates with a background in science. Limbaugh, she said, is “endangering the lives of his own listeners.”
Limbaugh, along with other Trump-aligned conservative media figures, has repeatedly aired skepticism of the deadliness and seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, which has now claimed nearly 11,000 American lives and has sent the country into an all-but-certain recession as millions of Americans stay home in an effort to limit the strain on the country’s health care system.
Limbaugh has said on his show that “this virus is the common cold” and claimed that “all of this panic is just not warranted.” He’s also suggested the number of deaths due to coronavirus is exaggerated and implied that government health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are part of the “deep state,” acting to undermine the Trump administration.
“The American people did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don’t know,” Limbaugh said in late March. “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know.”
In the minute-long radio ad, which is set to air in 14 states and Washington, D.C., starting on Tuesday, a narrator calls Limbaugh a “national disgrace” for attacking “Dr. Fauci and the other doctors and scientists who are trying to help save lives and stop the spread of the coronavirus,” referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Some Trump allies have criticized Fauci, a frequent presence at Trump’s daily White House press briefings on COVID-19, for occasionally contradicting the president. Both the doctor and the president have downplayed the disagreements.
“The fact that these apologists for Donald Trump have deceived the American people is more than irresponsible – it’s evil,” the narrator says in the ad. “Donald Trump and his allies have failed us. And too many people are dying. It’s time to listen to the facts ― to listen to science ― and stop lying to the American people.”
Trump awarded Limbaugh, who has a long history of controversial and offensive remarks, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at his State of the Union address in February. The award came just a few days after the 69-year-old Limbaugh announced a lung cancer diagnosis. Limbaugh is thought to be America’s most popular radio talk-show host, and Talkers Magazine, which covers the talk show industry, estimates 15.5 million people listen to Limbaugh each week.
The ads will air during Limbaugh’s show in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and D.C.
314 Action’s primary aim is to increase the number of scientists, engineers and doctors in Congress, and it has endorsed a host of Democrats in Senate and House races this cycle, including former astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona’s Senate race; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a geologist, for his state’s Senate contest; and Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood, a nurse, for reelection. (It’s supporting one independent: Dr. Al Gross, a physician who is running for Senate in Alaska with the backing of the state Democratic Party.)
The group is also running digital ads in eight states where governors have yet to issue shelter-in-place orders: Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, all of which have Republican governors. The ads feature an image of Fauci and note he voiced support for a national stay-at-home order.
“I don’t know what these governors are thinking,” Naughton said. “The only way this works is if we all stay home.”
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