Fox : As the threat of the Delta variant grows, public health experts are urging Americans to get vaccinated for the coronavirus and “try and save their own lives,” as Dr. Anthony Fauci put it Sunday. Right-wing media, however, appears to only be increasing its anti-vaccine messaging, with conservative commentators politicizing the vaccine and potentially endangering their audience.
“They’re going to be knocking on your doors, I guess with a cotton ball and a needle, and they’re going to look to put a needle into your deltoid—stop asking questions,” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said last week, inaccurately conflating President Joe Biden’s door-to-door initiative to get people vaccinated with a sinister infringement on personal freedom. CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out Friday that local governments have already been doing such outreach.
Nonetheless, Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen called Biden’s plan “Orwellian” and in a recent monologue, Fox News host Laura Ingraham connected Biden’s “creepy” initiative to the conspiracy theory of “great global resetters, who love seeing us shut in and shut up.” She commended Americans who “are wising up to this charade” by refusing to get vaccinated, per Media Matters.
Along with the Big Brother warnings, Fox’s anti-vaccine scare campaign has involved undermining the vaccine’s safety and seemingly exploiting rare negative side effects for ratings. And such fear-mongering could have a real impact on those who might feel hesitant about whether to get the shot. Surgo Ventures, a health nonprofit, noted in May that “Republicans remain overrepresented in the COVID Skeptic persona,” though “that number has fallen over time.” They also pointed out that “localized efforts should focus on combating misinformation around COVID-19 that spans party lines.” Rather than helping hesitant viewers obtain information about the documented benefits of the vaccine—and how to access it—Fox seems to be doing the opposite, some have observed.
“These radio stars, these TV stars: they are trusted individuals in Republican communities,” Stelter noted. “But they are abusing that trust by pushing anti-vaccination propaganda, and it’s something that ultimately affects every American.”
Right-wing media’s dangerous anti-vaccine messaging comes as the highly contagious Delta variant, which vaccines are shown to be effective against, spreads rapidly in parts of the country with lower vaccination rates. Delta became the dominant variant in the United States this week, according to the New York Times. It’s reportedly driving almost three-fourths of the new cases in Missouri, one of several vulnerable states seeing increased cases and hospitalizations. Less than half of all Missouri adults are fully vaccinated, and hospitals there are overwhelmed amid a surge of new cases. In Mississippi, where only a third of the population is fully vaccinated, hospitalizations are up 35 percent from two weeks ago. “We’ve seen almost an entire takeover in the Delta variant,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told CNN.
Media Matters president Angelo Carusone argued that Fox hosts are “lying to their audience” given the public health measures the network itself is following. All of the Fox & Friends hosts said they have been vaccinated, as have multiple other Fox News personalities. “It is one thing if they’re not promoting the vaccine, but they’re really going out of their way to get people to become hostile to the idea of it,” Carusone said.
Carusone has traced the network’s acceleration toward anti-vaccination views to May, when Tucker Carlson, long one of the network’s loudest vaccine skeptics, amplified the conspiracy theory that tens of thousands of people were dying from the vaccine.
“It’s not just an anti-vax thing which is somewhat passive in some ways,” Carusone told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Friday. “They’re building something that is actively anti-public health.”
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