Senior Project Advisor

Sheila Webb

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


COVID-19, Dr. Fauci


COVID-19 caused the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that emerged in December 2019 (Center for Disease Control, 2022). When COVID-19 became prevalent in early 2020 in the United States, the media played a large role in communication about the pandemic, whether it was transmitting updates about the spread of the virus, posting alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or sharing medical research on COVID-19 (Grasso, 2021). As the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci became a leading figure in informing the public about the virus. He was featured regularly on news sites, where many looked to him for updates and solutions. However, media politization of COVID-19 became more apparent as American citizens disagreed on restrictions and opinions were split along partisan lines (Hart, Chinn, & Soroka, 2020). Media portrayals can influence people’s opinions (Dunwoody & Kohl, 2017), and during the initial period of high uncertainty following the first COVID-19 cases, a negative portrayal of Dr. Fauci’s messaging could sow doubt in him and have grave health consequences whereas a positive portrayal might indicate an enhanced understanding of the issues. This study looks at the framing of Dr. Fauci by Fox News and CNN during the first lockdown and shows how two popular mass media outlets at opposite poles of the political spectrum portrayed science and experts during the pandemic. Results revealed a very clear and polar opposite portrayal of both Dr. Fauci and COVID-19 by these two media outlets, indicating a necessity for further examination of partisan-driven coverage of scientific uncertainty and its influence on public attitudes and opinions.






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