For weeks, as the rest of the country focused on what to do about the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky downplayed the seriousness of the virus, referring to it as a “press-induced panic” and encouraging people to question official reporting on the topic.
Pinsky was far from alone. A host of media personalities echoed similar comments, minimizing the COVID-19 outbreak or suggesting the dangers associated with the coronavirus were being blown out of proportion.
As the virus spreads and more continue to get sick and die, media watchdog groups and critics have put together videos of pundits and other commentators downplaying the severity of the virus. Many of these “mashups” went viral on social media, putting serious pressure on the talking heads who got it wrong.
Now, many are offering credit to “Dr. Drew,” because he has stepped up and apologized for his role in downplaying the pandemic. In a video posted on social media, Pinsky said, “I wish I had gotten it right, but I got it wrong.” In the same post he added that he’d been “part of the chorus” that downplayed the severity of the virus, suggesting at one point that it wouldn’t be as bad as the flu and calling for people not to overreact. Pinsky said he didn’t understand the severity of the illness at the time.
The admission is a step toward getting it right. Following this, Pinsky also directed people to follow the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of course, Pinsky was far from the only popular media personality to be a COVID-19 denier before the outbreak hit the U.S.
Some critics in the media have created video montages of pundits telling viewers that the danger of COVID-19 was being exaggerated. These kinds of videos offer easy ammunition for partisans to criticize and lampoon the “other side” of the political divide even as the country continues to suffer from both the virus itself and the restrictions put into place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Some are saying the right move now is for those who got it wrong to come out and say so, then reclaim some lost trust by offering the most up-to-date information and advice distributed by the CDC and other experts on infectious disease.
Regardless of where they stood on the issue, pundits, media personalities and anyone with influence in the greater national conversation should strongly consider their statements, positions and messages before putting them out there. Everything that’s happening now is being captured for both the near future and for history, and how people and brands respond could contribute to defining them for years to come.