Will “Special Report” come from a special new location? The New York Times reports that several high-profile Fox News anchors, as well as the network’s president, got exposed to COVID-19 on a private-jet return flight from last week’s presidential debate. None of them have tested positive, but all have been advised to quarantine:
The infected person was on a charter flight to New York from Nashville with a group of network executives, personalities and other staff members who attended the presidential debate on Thursday, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal network matters.
Everyone on board the plane has been told to get tested and quarantine. It was unclear whether more than one person had tested positive.
Those who were exposed include Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News Media; Bret Baier, the chief political anchor; Martha MacCallum, the anchor of Fox’s 7 p.m. show, “The Story”; and Dana Perino and Juan Williams, two hosts of “The Five.”
The New York Post, part of the same Murdoch media empire as Fox News, doesn’t have much to add. The network would not provide the NY Post with any confirmation or denial, citing privacy concerns. When I asked for a comment, their press office also declined, citing the same privacy concerns. The NYP does note this, however:
Network personnel have been wearing masks and avoiding proximity to one another, both in the studios and on the road, the outlet reported, citing Fox employees.
Expect to see this emphasized in coming days, especially if any of the above turn out to get infected. Hopefully that won’t be the case, and if they do, hopefully they will recover quickly from it. All of them are in lower-risk categories, which means they should be able to resist it with proper care, if they develop an infection at all.
A source with knowledge of internal communications tells me that Fox sent out an internal memo to all employees today about “recent developments” of COVID-19 at the network. The memo isn’t specific about the claims in the NYT article, but still emphasizes that any positive test result requires quarantine in any circumstances. The memo also outlines their plan to further reduce staffing at their 1211 headquarters for at least the next week. That includes Election Night, when staffing will be “critical” employees only, and Fox plans to use “enhanced testing procedures” for that period. Everyone else will work from home.
It’s these kind of eruptions that may end up having more impact on Americans, and not just those who watch Fox News. The White House outbreak is perhaps more newsworthy, but Americans have a more personal connection to their news outlets than to White House personnel, with the exception of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. As COVID-19 moves into those more intimate spaces, virtual or otherwise, it will increase awareness of the spread and danger of the virus. What impact that will have on voting behavior remains to be seen, but more important is the impact it will have on social behavior and the adoption of mitigation efforts such as mask-wearing and distancing.