As the Press Condemns Pandemic Politicization Morning Joe Misrepresents a Press Conference as a ‘Doctors Walkout’ Protest

Morning Joe mischaracterizes a press conference at a hospital as a walkout protest by 75 doctors (Credit: MSNBC)

Again, the desire for a narrative leads to a lurch of reporting by Morning Joe, absent investigation.

You would think after a time, the savvy and urbane journalists in the media stratosphere would start to realize that when a story appears perfectly nestled in the narrative maybe that would be the time to step back and engage in some more diligent investigations. After all, it was barely a week ago when the press rushed out stories about Broward school teachers dying on the job, only to later learn classes had yet to begin, and their preferred target of Ron DeSantis was actually not to blame for killing them.

The latest comes from yesterday, when Morning Joe had a live report of a clutch of doctors who were — we were told — staging a walkout, in protest of all of the unvaccinated people who were occupying their ICU beds. The first tipoff that something could be amiss is that somehow, the show had reporters on site for a live report of the entirely organic and not-at-all made-for-television appearance.

If you have not been watching Morning Joe lately, I have a couple of comments. First — congratulations on leading an upright and positive life. Second, both hosts — Joe Scarborough, and Mika Bryzynski — have developed over the past year into a pair shrieking and shouting harridans on the air. It has become a classic case of not having the facts on your side and instead resorting to emotional insistence to get a point across. Joe took over on this report and he tossed to his man in the parking lot, Kerry Sanders, the fortuitously positioned reporter who just happened to arrive for such an event. 

Scarborough spends almost a full minute of introduction bleating loudly at the camera, about poor patients in the area who are suffering from heart attacks and — presumed — more valid medical emergencies, than those patients who simply are dying from Covid due to a lack of vaccinations. Joe actually bemoaned those who allegedly cannot get into hospitals, stating there were those unable to get to see a doctor, “sick people, who want help from them.” Those people in the ICU with Covid conditions are therefore not sick, according to Scarborough.

Cutting to the parking lot, Sanders looks very grave indeed, with a phalanx of doctors standing defiantly in the background. Accolades to Sanders, for staging himself in just the proper position for such an organic, spur-of-the-moment gathering. “That is truly reflective of the frustration that you see behind me. Some of the doctors gathering to tell people to ignore the nonsense you see at public meetings.” Then Sanders undercuts Joe’s outrage.

He says 85% capacity is the occupancy rate in hospitals across Florida. This means they are not at full capacity, so Scarborough’s sick people can actually get in and get the care needed. The hospital Sanders was at had room for any arrivals in need of emergency and/or ICU care. Then, after a time, it was later in the day when Morning Joe, and a host of other news outlets across the media landscape, were in scramble mode as headlines were being rewritten. The MSNBC program altered its heading on its website, removing that this was a walkout so it now reads South Florida Doctors Voice Frustration.

It turns out, what was being shown and hyped was not a doctors’ walkout. These were doctors who simply walked outside for a photo op. What had taken place was a staged presser, organized by Dr. Jamie Snarski, with whom Sanders spoke. She had called together a number of doctors about to begin their shift inside, or who had just completed their shift, and asked them to come out for a brief press conference that was calling people to get vaccinated for the Covid-19 virus. 

This was something confirmed by Jeff Bercovici, at the Los Angeles Times.

Whether this was a complete journalistic fumble by the Morning Joe team, a show of some poor public relations by Snarski and others, or a combination of the two — the message that went out across the media environment that these were doctors who were fed up and walked off the job. The manner this misinformation got around is both impressive, and disappointing.

This has become a complete error in messaging by the organizers and the press. While the intention to illustrate how hard things are for some frontline workers and to underscore the importance of getting the vaccines could be seen as noble, instead they managed to push away just as many people as they hoped to sway. The impression that doctors were walking off in a mass protest during an outbreak because they were upset at a selection of patients left many with a negative response.

This serves as quite the lesson in getting your message to be on point, and to be sure the media is getting that message correct as they broadcast it to their audience. It is difficult to measure what yesterday’s net result came down to, but it is safe to say it was not as high of a positive as they intended.