News & Politics

Bill Maher Takes on the COVID-19 Narrative and Unexpectedly Give Props to Gov. Ron DeSantis

(Janet Van Ham/HBO via AP)

Bill Maher, the host of Real Time, proved he has a balanced news diet and does not swallow the narratives of the corporate media whole, at least on COVID-19. In his opening monologue this weekend, he blasted the liberal media outlets, based on poll results demonstrating that a plurality of Democrats overestimates the risks of COVID-19.

He said the media, the government, and the medical establishment took a “scared straight” approach to the pandemic to get people to comply with the recommendations. “Give it to me straight, doc, ’cause in the long run, that always works better than ‘you can’t handle the truth.'” Maher said he understands that doctors will sometimes exaggerate to get people to finish a medication, and politicians lie to cover their mistakes.

And in the media, it is pretty clear that if it bleeds, it leads. Maher called out the Dartmouth study that found that other countries mixed the good news and the bad news while the U.S. national media reported almost 90% bad news. Maher was not shy about exposing the apparent agenda, even if he had to take swipes at the left:

When all of our sources for medical information have an agenda to spin us, you wind up with a badly misinformed population. Including on the left. Liberals often mock the Republican misinformation bubble, which of course is very real. Ask anyone who works at Hillary’s pizza parlor. And we do know conservatives have some loopy ideas about COVID. Like the third of Republicans who believe it couldn’t be spread by someone showing no symptoms.

But what about liberals? You know, the high-information, by-the-science people? In a recent Gallup survey, Democrats did much worse than Republicans in getting the right answer to the fundamental question: “What are the chances that someone who gets COVID will need to be hospitalized.” The answer is between one and five percent. Forty-one percent of Democrats thought it was over 50% Another 28% put the chances at 20 to 49%. Almost 70% of Democrats are wildly off on this key question, and also have a greatly exaggerated view of the danger of COVID too, and the mortality rate among children. All of which explains why today the states with the highest share of schools that are still closed are all blue states.

So, if the right-wing media bubble has to own things like climate-change denial, shouldn’t liberal media have to answer “how did your audience wind up believing such a bunch of crap about COVID?”

Maher mocked The Atlantic for saying news outlets needed to stop using pictures of the beach for COVID stories because they give people the wrong idea. He flashed his science cred, noting that the beach is one of the best places you can be because sunlight is the best disinfectant, and vitamin D is the key to a robust immune system. Impressive. Citing Texas lifting their COVID restrictions and having lower cases three weeks later, he credits people getting outdoors.

Then, using what might be the worst picture in the Getty library of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, he busted the narrative on COVID management:

But too many liberals say that can’t be right, because Texas and beach-loving Florida have Republican governors. But life is complicated. I’ve read what the governor of Florida reads. I know we like to think of Florida as only middle-school teachers on bath salts having sex with their students in front of an alligator. But, apparently, the governor is also a voracious consumer of the scientific literature.

And maybe that’s why he protected his most vulnerable population, the elderly, way better than did the Governor of New York. Those are just facts. I know it’s irresponsible of me to say them.

That’s an amazing admission for Maher, given that DeSantis is the number one target of the national media and Democrats. His profile within the Republican Party has risen over the last six months, and he is considered a top-tier candidate for 2024 by left-leaning outlets like Politico. Maher might have just given the competition a boost.

Emphatically, Maher said he did not want politics mixed in with his medical decisions and gave examples of how highly politicized the pandemic has become. Unfortunately, he went back to the debunked story about President Trump telling people to ingest bleach. In reality, President Trump referred to UV light as a disinfectant, as Maher did.

Maher noted the one risk factor no one talked about enough, one that individuals can control:

I think a lot of people died because of Trump’s incompetence. And I think a lot of people died because talking about obesity had become a third rail in America. I know you’ve heard me pound this fried drumstick before. But since I last mentioned it, a stunning statistic was reported.

Seventy-eight percent of those hospitalized, ventilated, or dead from COVID have been overweight. It is the key piece of the puzzle. By far the most pertinent factor. But you dare not speak its name.

Despite the gratuitous and often stereotypical characterizations of Republicans Maher likes to use, he is entirely accurate about the awful media coverage. I wonder if he knows that, at least at CNN, it was intentional. He is also correct that the media and health bureaucrats rarely discuss the most significant thing Americans could do to lower their risk of serious illness. And we should all agree that we do not want politics mixed with our healthcare.

WATCH the full monologue