Opinion: Fox News’ Peter Doocy Pushed A Lie About Mask Mandate During Briefing — Here’s Why That’s Dangerous


Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy slipped a dangerous lie past White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at Thursday’s briefing, claiming that President Joe Biden’s executive order mandates that masks be “worn at all times on federal property.”

Just hours after White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield warned that lying could have consequences for networks like Fox News, Doocy tried to undermine Biden’s consistent pleas and policy prescriptions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by falsely portraying the president as a hypocrite.

Here’s the exchange:

DOOCY Why weren’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times on federal lands last night, if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times?

PSAKI: At the Inaugural –-

DOOCY At the Lincoln Memorial. Yes.

PSAKI: I think, Steve, he was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country. And certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives.

We take a number of COVID precautions, as you know here, in terms of testing, social distancing, mask wearing ourselves, as we do every single day. But I don’t know that I have more for you on it than that.

DOOCY But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the “example of power” but the “power of our example.” Was that a good example for people who are watching who might not pay attention normally?

PSAKI: Well, Steve, I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID; the requirements that we’re all under every single day here to ensure we’re sending that message to the public.

Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as President of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I don’t think — I think we have big — bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.

Psaki should probably have pointed out what’s actually in the order, but briefing books can’t cover every potential act of absurd dishonesty, let alone one as monstrous as lying about a pandemic that has likely killed more than 500,000 Americans, and will continue killing them for months to come.

Media types inclined toward pathological benefit of the doubt might wish to grant that maybe Doocy didn’t know what the order said, and thus lacked the foundation to inform the intent to lie. In isolation, I’d be happy to grant he’s just incompetent, but after nearly a year of Covid misinformation — as reported very early on by Mediaite editor in chief Aidan McLaughlin — and snark about Biden’s adherence to safety guidelines, I don’t think even Doocy would swallow that.

Neither would proud papa Steve Doocy, who crowed about the exchange Friday morning as he and other Fox & Friends hosts repeated the lie, and criticized Psaki for calling his son “Steve” because “they know who he is.”

Doocy’s entire question centers around quoting an executive order, it is not reasonable to believe he did not read it, or at least understand his duty to read it. If Doocy says otherwise, I’ll consider revisions. Then we can check with the hosts of Fox & Friends, and the Fox News reporter who printed the lie in this article.

The fact is that President Biden’s executive order doesn’t say that masks must be worn “on federal lands at all times,” it says that “Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.”

It also directs agency heads “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to require compliance with CDC guidelines with respect to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and other public health measures by: on-duty or on-site Federal employees; on-site Federal contractors; and all persons in Federal buildings or on Federal lands.”

The order also allows for exceptions, provided there are “appropriate alternative safeguards” taken.

And as even Fox & Friends’ Ainsley Earhardt noted, during the event in question, President Biden was socially-distanced when not wearing a mask. This was a wholly-concocted “Gotcha!” based on a lie.

It should be self-evident why the lie — or accidental falsehood or inadvertent accuracy-challenged utterance or whatever you want to call it — is so dangerous. The purpose of the lie — based on Fox News’ long history of mocking Covid safety precautions and lying about the virus — isn’t to encourage Biden to set a good example (which he was, in fact, doing), but to assert that mask mandates are for show, and that masking isn’t actually necessary.

It’s dangerous because throngs of Fox News-watching Trump fans have spent most of the past year superspreading the virus to people who didn’t ask to be exposed to the coronavirus after those fans streamed out of Trump rallies and into the general population, and this encourages that behavior among Fox’s still-sizable audience — or anyone else who watched the White House briefing that we all paid for. It’s not just Trump fans who are out there superspreading.

Someone in that chain of transmission could end up killing you, or your mom, or any other human being whose life has value. I hope everyone who reads this, especially the regular Mediaite readers over at Fox News, thinks long and hard about this.

Watch the clip above via The White House.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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