Joe Scarborough chided Dr. Mehmet Oz for seemingly downplaying the death toll of coronavirus victims during an April 16 interview on Fox News’ Hannity. The television doctor cited a study from The Lancet, which argues that “the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3 percent, in terms of total mortality,” and told host Sean Hannity that it might be an acceptable “tradeoff” for getting kids back in the classroom. “Schools are a very appetizing opportunity,” Dr. Oz said. “Any, you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they’re being educated and fed and making the most of their lives, with the theoretical risk of the backside — that might be a tradeoff some folks would consider.” Scarborough played the clip on the April 17 episode of Morning Joe, and was baffled by what he interpreted as Dr. Oz saying, “yeah, kids are gonna die.”
He looked stunned after playing the clip. “Really, 2 to 3 percent mortality rate? For our children? I mean, my god. As Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said, it is unprecedented.” Dr. Oz took to Twitter after the Hannity interview to apologize and address the swift backlash from outraged viewers: “I’ve realized that my comments about reopening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention. I misspoke. As a heart surgeon, I’ve spent my career fighting to save lives in the operating room by minimizing risks. At the same time, I’m being asked constantly how we’ll be able to get people back to their normal lives. To do that, one of our most important steps is figuring out [how to] get our children safely back to school. We know that for many kids, school is a place of security, nutrition, and learning that is missing right now. These are all issues we are wrestling with. And I’ll continue looking for solutions to beat this virus.”
Scarborough also took aim at Dr. Phil McGraw‘s April 16 appearance on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, in which he claimed that the lockdown is deadlier than coronavirus itself. “There’s a point at which people start having enough problems in lockdown that it will actually create more destruction and actually more deaths across time than the actual virus will itself,” the Dr. Phil host said. Dr. Phil, who isn’t licensed and has a doctorate in psychology, went on to compare coronavirus the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States to those of other causes, including swimming pool drownings and smoking cigarettes. What he failed to acknowledge is that these causes aren’t contagious, and that the coronavirus death toll has skyrocketed over a short amount of time; lockdown measures are in place to stop it spreading and claiming lives even further.
— 🦃 🍁 🍗 (@HollywoodBlvd1) April 17, 2020
I’ve realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention. I misspoke. pic.twitter.com/Kq1utwiCjR
— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) April 16, 2020
“Two hundred and fifty people a year die from poverty. And the poverty line is getting such that more and more people are going to fall below that, because the economy is crashing around us,” Dr. Phil, who, again, is not a medical doctor, said. “And they’re doing that because people are dying from the coronavirus. And I get that, but look — the fact of the matter is, we have people dying — 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 from swimming pools and we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet, we’re doing it for this?”
Some of Dr. Phil’s data was wrong. In the United States, there are approximately 40,000 car accident deaths each year — not 45,000. There’s an average of just 3536 unintentional drownings in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that includes other bodies of water, not just swimming pools. In contrast, as of April 17, there are 678,210 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and 34,641 Americans have died from the contagious virus. His statistic on cigarette deaths is correct, but the correlation isn’t there; smoking is a personal choice. Scarborough’s response on Morning Joe? “I mean, really? The stupidity of that… I’ll let others explain how stupid that is.”
Scarborough’s co-host, Willie Geist, explained why Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz’s remarks are so dangerous. “The problem is, they have huge followings. Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil both have shows with millions of viewers,” he said. “Fox News, those programs, obviously, are very highly rated. Millions of viewers. So when those prominent doctors go on TV and say these things, a lot of people listen. That’s reflected, by the way, in polling, that shows who is taking this seriously and who is not.
“That’s why we try to have on this show and bring to our audience actual doctors who specialize in this stuff. Public health experts and officials, epidemiologists, who know exactly what they’re talking about, and are not there to play to an audience. They’re not there for TV ratings.”