The terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001 killed 2,977 people.
Carried out by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda, four airplanes were hijacked across America. Two pummeled into the World Trade Center in New York City.
A third made contact with the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C. The fourth plane saw its passengers and flight crew fight back against the terrorists on board. This airplane never reached its target and crashed in a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field.
Many first responders died years after 9/11 as well due to complications following exposure from toxic substances in the rubble.
Fast forward nineteen years, where America is dealing with a very different kind of tragedy. A global pandemic – the novel coronavirus – has so far left at least 6,200 dead in the United States, according to an updating database from the New York Times.
When the novel coronavirus death count surpassed the deaths caused by terrorists on 9/11 just days ago, media pundits jumped at the opportunity to make erroneous comparisons.
These comparisons often appeared to be an attempt to undermine President Donald Trump and the administration’s efforts. The juxtapositions appeared despite 9/11 being a terrorist attack carried out in a single day, with thousands more eventually dying from side effects of the attacks.
COVID-19, meanwhile, is a new virus that has not yet been seen before in humans, which means that there is no vaccine. It appears to be fast-spreading and was pushed along by China’s early attempts to cover it up.
“A grim milestone reached today, as deaths from coronavirus surpassed those from the attacks of September 11 at more than 3,000,” MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace said.
“More Americans have died under Trump’s failed leadership from the coronavirus than on 9/11 yet Trump is more concerned with “punching back” against the media and Democrats. Does anyone really want 4 more years of this Bullshit?!” The Daily Beast columnist Dean Obeidallah tweeted.
The coronavirus death toll in the US has now crossed 3,000, which means it has surpassed the 9/11 death toll (under another reckless GOP president) and also, perhaps more relevantly, the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico (also on Trump’s irresponsible watch).
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) March 31, 2020
More Americans have now died from the coronavirus than on 9/11.
Trump knew about this for months, but chose to lie and cover up rather than test and quarantine. He cared only about his re-election- not then or now about American lives. We will not forget!
— Amy Siskind ????️???? (@Amy_Siskind) March 30, 2020
American deaths from the coronavirus now exceed American deaths from 9/11. This is no big deal, according to the people who spent every day since 9/11 exploiting it for their purposes while being contemptuous for the communities directly affected by it. https://t.co/qyX69twdJW
— Adam Serwer???? (@AdamSerwer) March 31, 2020
“Coronavirus has already killed more Americans than the terrorist attacks by al Qaeda on 9/11 – and is just getting started,” CNN’s John Harwood tweeted.
These same media pundits have not yet made the 9/11 comparison to the flu, which surpasses deaths from the 2001 terrorist attack every year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2018-2019 flu season, for example, saw an estimated 34,157 deaths in America. The year before resulted in around 61,000 deaths.
Nor have these media pundits compared 9/11 to the 2009 Swine Flu, a novel influenza virus that appeared in 2016 when former President Barack Obama was in office. An estimated 12,469 people died in the United States from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010 before of this novel virus, the CDC reported.
The same media who are now erroneously comparing 9/11 deaths to the novel coronavirus also downplayed the virus early on. They have since scrambled to backtrack.
Vox was forced to revisit and delete a Jan. 31 tweet about the novel coronavirus that claimed the virus would not become a “deadly pandemic.” (RELATED: Media Outlets Are Revisiting And Revising Their Old Reporting On The Coronavirus)
“It this going to be a deadly pandemic? No,” Vox tweeted.
… ouch https://t.co/2nOp5jgrOE pic.twitter.com/JqCFOKerin
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) March 24, 2020
“Don’t Worry About The Coronavirus. Worry About The Flu,” a Jan. 28 article from Buzzfeed was originally titled. The article was edited on March 16 and an “update” was added to note that “we have decided to change the headline in order to reflect our current understanding of the pandemic.”
Both Vox and Buzzfeed are not only guilty of downplaying the virus, but are now comparing the two very different tragedies. A Vox March 31 article featured the coronavirus deaths overtaking those that came from 9/11.
“Does this mean the US national security community should prioritize global health now?” Vox wondered.
Buzzfeed noted that based on recent death projections from White House coronavirus task force officials, “the death toll would be as if there were a 9/11 attack every day for the next two to three months.”
“Those closest to the tragedies of the past say it’s a mistake to equate them to our current reality,” a March 23 New York Post article by Hannah Frishberg pointed out regarding comparing the virus to something like 9/11. “It’s lazy logic that equates those historic crises with the global influence of COVID-19.”
Frishberg continued on to urge people to “recall their humanity” while acknowledging the massive differences between the two tragedies. Based on media reports just days after Frishberg’s article, the advice appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
“But survivors say there are unifying lessons to be learned from the lack of similarities,” according to Frishberg. “In fact, it’s the differences that can speak to what we should be grateful for, and where we can find shared strength in the current climate of fear and unknowns.”