Why Are Right-Wing Activists Filming Their Local Hospitals? Look to Todd Starnes

Todd Starnes speaks at Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2018. (Photo: Jared Holt for Right Wing Watch)

Right-wing conspiracy theorists are filming outside their local hospitals and claiming the quiet scenes resulting from visitor restrictions are proof that media have​ exaggerated the severity of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in America.

The hashtag #FilmYourHospital trended on Twitter Sunday, encouraging people to travel to ​nearby hospitals and record video of the exterior to supposedly show that media coverage of chaotic and overcrowded hospitals ​is untrue. It appears that right-wing radio host Todd Starnes may have inspired the trend, although Starnes has not used the specific hashtag in any post.

Starnes uploaded a video Saturday afternoon that he filmed wandering around outside of the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. Starnes is heard off-camera telling viewers that he wanted to expose the “war zone” that an emergency room doctor at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital described to CNN last week.

“You’re hearing one thing on the mainstream media​, and this is what it’s like in reality,” Starnes said. “Very quiet, very calm out here … There is not massive chaos outside this hospital.”

The next day, failed California congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine filmed a similar video outside what she said were two hospitals in Los Angeles. “They are very quiet & EMPTY. We are not being told the truth. Why??” Lorraine wrote, encouraging others to also film their local hospitals. “We ARE the news now. We can’t trust the news.”

Lorraine’s video was subsequently shared hours later by Fox News contributor Sara Carter in a since-deleted tweet to her more than 1 million followers. Carter also retweeted several Twitter users who uploaded videos with the #FilmYourHospital hashtag. Right Wing Watch emailed Twitter to inquire whether Carter’s tweet had been deleted as part of the platform’s stated policies surrounding COVID-19 misinformation but did not receive a​n immediate response​.

(Screenshot via Wayback Machine)

Scott Presler, a pro-Trump activist, filmed himself driving through a hospital campus in Fairfax County, Virginia​, yesterday and shared it with his hundred of thousands of followers. He wrote, “I didn’t see a lot of cars, a lot of people, or hardly any activity.”

Chuck Callesto, a former congressional candidate in Florida’s 3rd District, spread the hashtag and urged followers to hold media accountable for “CAUSING UNNEEDED PANIC.”

A scroll through the hashtag shows many similar videos filmed by seemingly ordinary people.

Many hospitals have restricted visitors ​in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19; it’s likely a major contributor to the images of empty parking lots and roadways outside hospitals. The “war zones” that have been described in media are inside hospitals, where federal law​s​ ​restrict filming patients without their consent.