Limbaugh and Trump fuel coronavirus conspiracy theories

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who told his listeners that alarmism about the coronavirus was a plot to bring down President Trump, has attacked the CDC official who warned Americans that the virus will inevitably spread in the U.S.

“Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control — which today warned it could be bad, it might be bad, don’t go to school and don’t go to work, stay at home and teleconference — is the sister of the former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein,” Limbaugh said on Tuesday’s program.

Rosenstein, who resigned from the Justice Department last May, oversaw the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller that President Trump sought to stop.

Limbaugh explained why he believed Messonnier’s relationship to Rosenstein mattered: “It’s just in that town, I’m telling you, everything is incestuous. Most of that town is establishment-oriented or rooted, which means they despise Trump,” he said.

Limbaugh received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump at his State of the Union speech last month.

On Monday, Limbaugh dismissed the danger presented by the coronavirus outbreak, which has so far killed over 2,700 people worldwide.

“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Limbaugh said on his radio program. “Now, I have to tell you the truth about coronavirus. ... Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

While the coronavirus first presents symptoms similar to those of the common cold — including headache, sore throat and fever — some infected with the virus develop difficulty breathing that can progress into life-threatening respiratory distress syndrome.

“The drive-by media hype of this thing as a pandemic, as the Andromeda strain, as, “Oh my God, if you get it you’re dead,” do you know what the — I think the survival rate is 98 percent. Ninety-eight percent of the people get the coronavirus and survive.”

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Radio show host Rush Limbaugh speaks at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation, on the similarities between the war on terrorism and the television show "24," in Washington June 23, 2006. REUTERS/Micah Walter (UNITED STATES)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 09: Rudy Guiliani, Marvin Shanken, Rickie Fowler and Rush Limbaugh during the Ernie Els Els for Autism pro-am at the Old Palm CC on March 9, 2015 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh is seen in this police booking mug shot taken on April 28, 2006. Limbaugh turned himself in to police in Florida on Friday and was charged with prescription drug fraud as part of a probe that began more than two years ago, authorities said. Limbaugh was released on $3,000 bail after being held for about one hour at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office/Handout
PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Kate Rogers and Rush Limbaugh attend the Andrea Bocelli concert at The Mar-a-Lago Club on February 28, 2010 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Lucien Capehart/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 18: Radio talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh looks on from the sideline before a National Football League game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 18, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 13-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
- FEBRUARY 1: (L-R) Rush Limbaugh, Hulk Hogan and Nick Hogan attend Haute Living and Rolls Royce Superbowl Party Benefinting Bay Point Schools at Private Residence on February 1, 2007. (Photo by Tom Grizzle/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 10: Rush Limbaugh plays during the Els for Autism Pro-am at The PGA National Golf Club on March 10, 2014 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 6: Radio talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh acknowledges cheers from fans as he stands on the sideline before a National Football League game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 6, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 23-20. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 27: Two of the judges in the 2010 Miss America Pageant, saxophonist Dave Koz (L) and radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, speak during a news conference for the judges at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino January 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant will be held at the resort on January 30, 2010. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NOVI, MI - MAY 3: Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh speaks at 'An Evenining With Rush Limbaugh' event May 3, 2007 in Novi, Michigan. The event was sponsored by WJR radio station as part of their 85th birthday celebration festivities. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
THE JAY LENO SHOW -- Air Date 09/24/2009 -- Episode 9 -- Pictured: (l-r) Political talk show host Rush Limbaugh, host Jay Leno outside by the Jay Leno Show racetrack on September 24, 2009 -- Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank
LOS ANGELES - JULY 6, 2005: Rush Limbaugh poses for a Portrait on July 6th, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 27: Four of the judges in the 2010 Miss America Pageant (L-R) singer/songwriter Brooke White, gymnast Shawn Johnson, radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and Miss America 2002 Katie Harman pose after a news conference for the judges at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino January 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant will be held at the resort on January 30, 2010. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh takes a break and smokes a cigar during his radio show. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rush Limbaugh points to the audience during his television show. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Talk show host Rush Limbaugh prepares for his program at KSEV radio station in Houston. Limbaugh is known for his controversial conservative politics. (Photo by � Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rush Limbaugh Sells $3M of Betsy Ross Flag T-Shirts After Nike Pulls Sneaker Design
Radio talk show host and conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh looks on before introducing President Donald Trump to deliver remarks at a Make America Great Again rally in Cape Girardeau, Mo, on Nov. 5, 2018. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
Krystal Ball, the former MSNBC host who now works as a news anchor for The Hill, is firing back at Rush Limbaugh after the conservative radio host alleged that she’d posted nude photos of herself on “Facebook or MySpace or you know, MyButt” when she “was 14 or 15.”
Krystal Ball, the former MSNBC host who now works as a news anchor for The Hill, is firing back at Rush Limbaugh after the conservative radio host alleged that she’d posted nude photos of herself on “Facebook or MySpace or you know, MyButt” when she “was 14 or 15.”
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Progressive talk show host Krystal Ball slams Rush Limbaugh for 'slut shaming' her with false claim
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That figure appears to be correct, according to testimony in Congress Tuesday by acting head of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, but it might not be as reassuring as Limbaugh's comments implied. No one can predict how many Americans might contract the virus, but if it infects, say, 10 percent of the country, or 33 million people, a 2 percent mortality rate translates to 660,000 deaths. That is almost ten times the number of Americans who died of opioid overdoses in 2017, about 70,000.

In his testimony, Wolf said the 2 percent figure was roughly the same as the death rate from seasonal influenza. In fact, flu kills just 0.1 percent of patients, a rate one-twentieth as high.

With fears rising of a pandemic of coronavirus, which in two months has quickly spread from China to Korea, Europe and the Middle East, Trump plans to address the nation about the U.S. government’s response.

So far there are only 59 cases of the coronavirus reported in the U.S., but the government has tested only 445 people, according to the CDC. The test itself has been found to be faulty, the Washington Post reported, leading health officials to state that the number of U.S. cases could be drastically underreported.

Initially, however, Trump downplayed the threat of the virus to the U.S., and encouraged Americans to invest in the stock market, which suffered a massive sell-off on Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, dismissed the CDC’s warnings.

“We have contained this, I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow told CNBC. In fact, like Trump, Kudlow encouraged Americans to put their money back into the stock market.

“This virus story is not going to last forever,” Kudlow added. “To me, if you are an investor out there and you have a long-term point of view, I would suggest very seriously taking a look at the market, the stock market, that is a lot cheaper than it was a week or two ago.”

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell by 879 points on Tuesday after falling more than 1,000 points on Monday. On Wednesday, despite the investing advice offered by Kudlow and Trump, the Dow fell another 123 points.

With global markets tanking, Trump sought to blame familiar media targets.

He did not explain why he believed organizations opposed to him would invent a crisis in February, with nine months to go before the election.

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