Scientists say such wildfires are becoming larger and more frequent as “forests around the world increasingly dry out amid the warming climate,” a fact calmly observed by Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal but furiously derided by his Fox employees.
Many major news outlets published reports noting that experts recommend people in affected areas wear high-quality masks to prevent health problems caused by the smoke. Those can include “trouble breathing, burning eyes, dizziness, headache or nausea,” particularly among high-risk populations including children, seniors, and people with respiratory problems including asthma. As Fox medical correspondent Dr. Janette Nesheiwat put it during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News Tonight, “If you do have to go outside, an N-95 can help protect you from that large particulate matter.”
Nesheiwat has a lot of work to do within Fox’s own building if she hopes that message will sink in for its audience. Hosts elsewhere on the network treated the idea of wearing masks in response to the wildfire smoke as a punch line.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jeanine Pirro presented the notion as a left-wing conspiracy, saying, “Democrats are pumping up climate hysteria and bringing back, you guessed it, mask insanity.” That night, Sean Hannity mocked “young, healthy people” for putting on masks, Jesse Watters lashed out at government officials for recommending their use, and Laura Ingraham claimed they “seem a little giddy to be back in the masks” and are promoting “panic porn.”
In fact, Fox’s influential hosts repeatedly downplayed the idea that the wildfire smoke poses any health risk at all.
“I keep reading and hearing reports and people being interviewed — 'I had a hard time breathing' — and I'm like, I'm walking in the same place you're walking in and I don't feel a thing, and I'm trying to understand, and my -- I work out regularly, so I think I'm relatively in tune with my body,” Hannity said. “I think if it was difficult -- if I was having difficulty breathing, I would notice. But these are young people saying this. Are they all snowflakes?”
“Yes,” OutKick host Charly Arnolt replied. “I think people just like to make a big deal out of nothing.”