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Company Town

Fox News addresses coronavirus threat internally as on-air talent faces criticism

Trish Regan, host of Fox Business Network's "Trish Regan Primetime."
(Alex Kroke/Fox Business Network)

Fox News Channel isn’t dismissing the threat of the novel coronavirus.

On Thursday, the New York-based news powerhouse, the centerpiece of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp., notified employees of increased security and safety measures, including reducing on-air guest appearances in its studios. It also told staff members to begin working from home if they were able to.

“We are reducing the staff footprint at our headquarters in New York and some of our bureaus and will be instituting telecommuting starting Monday, March 16th for all of those departments capable of doing so,” Fox News Chief Executive Suzanne Scott and Fox News President Jay Wallace wrote in an email to staff members.

In addition, there will be no live audience for the popular “Fox & Friends” program “for the foreseeable future,” the executives said.

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No Fox News, Fox Business Network or Fox Radio staff members have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the executives said. On Wednesday, CBS News evacuated its news division headquarters in midtown Manhattan after two employees were diagnosed to have COVID-19. CBS plans to reopen its New York newsrooms next week after they have been sanitized.

Earlier in the week, Fox News suspended non-essential business travel for employees and now is encouraging them to “cancel all in person meetings and summits, and conduct business via Skype or by phone.” The company had already scrapped appearances at conferences by its top executives and called off its planned spring presentation for advertisers.

The company’s new internal procedures came as the U.S. stock market suffered its largest one-day fall in nearly 33 years, and Walt Disney Co. moved to close Disneyland and California Adventure beginning Saturday. NBCUniversal also on Thursday asked employees to work from home, cancel non-essential business trips, avoid large gatherings and not hold in-person meetings “unless it is absolutely necessary,” according to a memo from CEO Jeff Shell.

Fox News’ internal communications stood in contrast to some of the commentary on its shows in recent weeks. Fox Business anchor Trish Regan suggested earlier this week that liberals were stoking virus fears as part of an “impeachment scam” targeting the president.

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Prime-time star Tucker Carlson was more measured: “People you trust — people you probably voted for — have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,” Carlson told his audience. “Though these people have good intentions as they say this — many of them, anyway ― they may not know any better. Maybe they’re just not paying attention or maybe they believe they’re serving some higher cause by shading reality.”

Scott and Wallace, in the internal communication, underscored the vital role that Fox News plays in conveying information.

“Please keep in mind that viewers rely on us to stay informed during a crisis of this magnitude and we are providing an important public service to our audience by functioning as a resource for all Americans,” they wrote.


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