Tony Perkins Called Coronavirus Precautions ‘Irrational.’ Now He’s Changed His Tune

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins speaks at Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2018. (Photo: Jared Holt for Right Wing Watch)

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ religious-right group Family Research Council, has completely changed his tune on the ​COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Less than two weeks ago, Right Wing Watch reported that Perkins had told his radio listeners across the country that the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus ​outbreak had been “irrational” and that U.S. media had fueled a sense of panic among the public. Speaking with Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas at the time, Perkins argued that the response to the ​outbreak, which the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic​ two days later,​ had been “disproportionate to the threat.”

Perkins attempted to compare the coronavirus to the flu to downplay its risk. As Right Wing Watch reported​, Perkins ​said:

I’m scratching my head when I compare the numbers, the CDC’s numbers on the number of people who’ve contracted the flu this year, this flu season, 32 million people—20,000 people have died from the flu, from influenza. This is a more potent virus, there’s no question about that. Nobody’s arguing that. But the response, again, is just irrational—I think part because the media has been, you know, just pounding it.

But on Monday’s episode of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” Perkins’ tone was more somber. Perkins revealed to listeners that his daughter had volunteered to serve in the respiratory unit of an emergency room treating coronavirus patients and that the coronavirus was straining the country’s healthcare system. “It’s real, it’s serious, and so we’ve got to do our part,” Perkins said.

Perkins urged his listeners to follow the same guidelines and orders that he had called “irrational” not so long ago.

“Look​, folks, no reason to be fearful, but follow the guidelines,” Perkins said. “Follow the guidelines, do the social distancing if you have a stay-at-home order in place in your state and you’re not a part of an essential frontline, workers, you know, try to stay home, work from home, try to be productive—please be productive. Our economy needs it.”

And for his prior comparison between the coronavirus and the flu? Perkins has changed his rhetoric about that, too.

“The way we treat flu patients, influenza​, and the respiratory problems associated with that​​ are different than the coronavirus,” Perkins said. “The coronavirus attacks the lungs in such a way and you can’t treat the respiratory problems in the same way … you have to use a contained system​, and there’s only so many of those.”