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How One Right-Wing Virginia Talk Radio Host is Fueling Backlash Against Social Distancing

WRITTEN BY ALEX WALKER, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA

A Virginia-based talk radio host and member of President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign advisory committee is promoting local protests against COVID-19 restrictions and spreading misinformation about the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted talk radio’s unique ability to reach local audiences. John Fredericks, host of The John Fredericks Show, is one of many conservative media figures who have railed against public health measures designed to slow the spread of the virus. But in addition to pushing familiar right-wing talking points, Fredericks’ show provides a valuable platform for regional protest organizers looking to boost turnout and Trump surrogates hoping to reach a local audience.

A profile of Fredericks for The Washington Post noted, “A local host can repeatedly bolster or attack a local politician, whereas a national host simply doesn’t have the time.” Protests against social distancing have largely been organized at the state and local level. While nationally syndicated hosts like Rush Limbaugh cheer on these protests from the sidelines, only local hosts like Fredericks can afford to spend airtime engaging with local organizers and encouraging audiences to attend specific protests.

Trump’s media allies have cast doubt on the effectiveness of social distancing, and many have voiced support for protesters calling to reopen the economy. Fredericks has been a strong supporter of these protests, even offering up his show as a megaphone for organizers. As he argued during a discussion with one local protest organizer on May 14, “We have got to get out of our pajamas and stop this. And the only way you’re going to stop it is by direct action.”

Much of Fredericks’ criticism has been aimed at state and local officials in Virginia, and he has interviewed several protest organizers in his home state. On April 21, Fredericks encouraged his listeners to attend a rally in Richmond and asked, “When are we going to wake up and stop this nonsense?” Later during the same show, Fredericks interviewed one of the protest organizers with Reopen Virginia.

Read the full report from Media Matters for America.