It took me some thought and conversations about this question before I came up with an answer that turned out to be simple: It was Trump’s early adopters, the ones who supported him before he looked like a winner to the rest of the world, who were ahead of the average in expressing alarm over the coronavirus. It was Trump’s late adopters, the ones who would have lined up behind any Republican in power, who carried water for the message of denial. Early Trump adopter Tucker Carlson (who has compared supporting Donald Trump to rooting for “the old Chicago Cubs,” because of the embarrassment that goes with it) began making coronavirus coverage a staple of his show in late January, something that made him unique in cable news. Late Trump adopters like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh first ignored the problem and then amplified Trump’s losing message. As late as March 11, Limbaugh was insisting that “this virus is the common cold.”
For Trump’s early adopters, the issue of the coronavirus was a perfect fit. “If you were an early Trump adopter, then this China coronavirus is a vindication of everything you’ve said,” says Cernovich. “Like, hey, supply chains are a problem. Let’s bring back massive manufacturing. Everything we’ve been screaming about, warning about, for five years is right there.” If your preoccupations have been over manufacturing capacity, border control, or globalism, then coronavirus hits on all three at once. “I think the people who understood the Party of Davos cynicism, and about Chinese factories and all that, were early to understand that this was going to be a massive issue,” says Bannon, who began devoting his podcast, War Room, to the coronavirus already in late January.