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.”
This is the “war zone” outside the hospital in my Brooklyn neighborhood. https://t.co/66FZ9VO3Jj
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) March 28, 2020
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.”
Just went to 2 hospitals in LA to check out these “War Zones” the MSM keeps telling us about.?
They are very quiet & EMPTY.
We are not being told the truth. Why?? Let’s get #FilmYourHospital trending. We ARE the news now. We can’t trust the news. Post pics of ur hospital here! pic.twitter.com/5AJ5L588lQ
— DeAnna Lorraine?? (@DeAnna4Congress) March 29, 2020
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 an immediate response.
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.”
I visited my hospital in Fairfax County,
one of the largest population hubs in America.
I didn’t see a lot of cars, a lot of people, or hardly any activity.
Wanted to see with my own eyes. pic.twitter.com/bv4E2IxlOf
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) March 29, 2020
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.”
BREAKING REPORT: CBS News BUSTED Using Footage from ITALIAN HOSPITAL to Describe Conditions in NYC…
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) March 30, 2020
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 laws restrict filming patients without their consent.
The video @toddstarnes took of Brooklyn Hospital’s parking lot to claim “what’s really going on” is nothing at New York City hospitals has 4 million views and 134K shares on Facebook.
It’s the same hospital in the viral video of bodies being loaded into a refrigerated truck. pic.twitter.com/j0FO7Gr5Ey
— andrew kaczynski? (@KFILE) March 30, 2020