Why Michael Savage is blasting Sean Hannity and the right-wing media on the coronavirus

Why Michael Savage is blasting Sean Hannity and the right-wing media on the coronavirus. By Jeremy Peters.

Michael Savage is an American radio host and conservative political commentator. He is the host of The Savage Nation, a nationally syndicated talk show with 10 million listeners weekly. He is the only member of the U.S. media ever blacklisted and banned from a Western nation. His ban from visiting Britain in June 2009 has made him the “poster child” for free speech, not only for Americans concerned about the cultural shift towards totalitarianism and their rights to freedom of expression, but for people around the globe.

For the past two months, listeners to Savage’s conservative radio show have heard him howl with unabated contempt about another menace: “The pimps” in the right-wing media “who tell you what you want to hear.” They are “intellectual dwarfs” and “science illiterates,” he says, who spent weeks downplaying the threat from the coronavirus epidemic and accusing President Donald Trump’s opponents of exaggerating it to hurt him politically.

On Savage’s broadcast, which has one of the largest audiences in talk radio with 7.5 million listeners each week, the virus has never been a hoax or a bad case of the sniffles. He has lectured his fans on the research in detail: How it is transmitted; which treatments are proving effective; and the difference between morbidity and mortality rates.

With no small amount of self-satisfaction, Savage reminds people of his credentials — a Ph.D. and training in epidemiology — and of the fact that he was one of the few voices in conservative media who had warned them all along.

His views are a striking departure from the accepted version of events among Trump’s loyalists in the media, who have made a concerted effort to deny that they downplayed the epidemic — and have helped fuel support for protests against stay-at-home orders in states like Michigan. Savage has attacked the credibility of the conservative media, accused its biggest stars of being too rote and unthinking in their defense of the president, and demanded that they be held accountable for misleading millions of Americans. …

His contempt for hosts like Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whose top-rated radio shows draw more than 30 million listeners each week, is especially searing. He mocks them as “Dr. Hannity” and “Rush Limbaugh, M.D., Ph.D.,” belittles their lack of education compared with his, and berates people who took their claims seriously. …

Savage’s coronavirus crusade is partly a reflection of his training as a scientist. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in nutritional ethnomedicine, a field that examines how various cultures and ethnicities use natural products for health purposes. As part of his training, he studied epidemiology. He is a germaphobe and has a survivalist streak. One of the houses he owns in Marin County has its own reservoir. …

Savage’s criticism of the conservative media allows him to sidestep the bigger questions about Trump’s leadership. Nicole Hemmer, a scholar at Columbia University and author of a book on the history of right-wing media, “Messengers of the Right,” said that Savage was letting the president off the hook by arguing that people in his inner circle like Hannity are giving him bad advice.

“In a way, he inoculates Trump from criticism by saying it’s not necessarily Trump that has bad instincts — it’s that he’s been misinformed,” Hemmer said. She added that Savage was still a lot like other hosts in that “they are all trying to find ways to protect Donald Trump, they just disagree about the method to do that.”

Some of the misinformation — such as misquoting the Iceland study — in certain circles has been driven by wishful thinking and confirmation bias, but has been quite wrong. Savage saw the danger early and called it correctly.