On MSNBC’s All In, Angelo Carusone highlights Tucker Carlson’s dangerous anti-vaccine lies

Carusone: “It’s not just an anti-vax thing … they’re building something that is actively anti-public health”

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Citation From the July 9, 2021, edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes

CHRIS HAYES (HOST): I`m joined now by Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, which is requiring all students to be vaccinated in the fall. Angelo Carusone, the President and CEO of Media Matters, which monitors and corrects conservative misinformation in the media.

Angelo, let me start with you because again, I don't spend as much time studying this as you do, but my perception is that there's been a kind of acceleration towards this view over time, as we have gotten further into the Biden administration, of this kind of just asking questions, trollingly opposition to any pro-vaccine moves. Is that a fair characterization?

ANGELO CARUSONE: That's exactly right. It has certainly -- you know, it started much more just asking questions, opposing public health measures, undermining it, but there was a switch in May, where Tucker Carlson really started pushing the idea the vaccine was killing tens of thousands of people. A very, very minor conspiracy theory that was circulating online in the fever swamps, and he plucked it out of there and he gave it a lot of push, and that was really things started to shift over at Fox News. And since then, it's just intensified and amplified.

HAYES: I should just be clear here about what he did, because I think it's worth taking a second to just talk about how dishonest and despicable it was. 

There's a public record of vaccine outcomes that's traced, and millions of people are getting the vaccine, so some percentage of those people die after getting the vaccine, in the same way that some percentage of all people, particularly when you're vaccinating seniors, die or get sick.

And they basically -- this started online, people taking those examples and saying, "Look, two plus two equals four, the vaccine is killing people."

It's just, like, obviously deeply, deeply stupid, like, aggressively stupid to misunderstand that intentionally or not, but that was what was being done, right?

CARUSONE: That's correct. It was a conspiracy theory. He did it on purpose. It was intentional. Like you said, a lot of this is intentional. It's very clearly intentional.

HAYES: Dr. Jha, can we talk about the sort of contours of mandates? Because I -- again, I`ll step -- I`ll sort of hop to the other side and briefly argue against myself, which is that I can see -- I can see ways in which mandates in certain environments might be counterproductive, or they might make people feel like they`re being pushed and persuasion and outreach is probably a better way to go. So, I`m curious what your view is of mandates broadly, and then in the -- in the narrow context of colleges and universities.

ASHISH JHA (DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH): Yes, so Chris, persuasion is always the first effort. And I think we`ve tried that. And we got to continue trying that. I`m not saying we`re done there. But we are fighting a pretty well organized, very well-funded anti-vax movement that has ulterior motives. It is not trying to promote freedom or choice.

And, you know, for universities, for businesses, they have a very specific choice which is do they want to create a safe environment for their workers to come back? Do they want to create a safe environment for their students? Do they want to have mass and social distancing in class? Or do they want classes back to some version of normal?

And universities like mine, Brown University, our president basically said I want a normal fall. I want a normal semester. And that meant mandating vaccines for everybody, not just the students, but also faculty and staff. That`s what`s going to be essential. I think that`s ultimately what`s going to drive a lot more vaccinations.

Companies and businesses and people are just going to decide they`re tired of all the restrictions and the best way to get rid of the restrictions is to get people vaccinated.

HAYES: So, you think -- so, just to follow up on that. And I will say that I went to the university that you are now the Dean of the public health school at. And I remember what I getting mail, my freshman year, saying like, here`s a million things you have to do. Like these are -- these are non-negotiable things you have to do before you come to campus.

Like -- so, It wasn`t like it was like it`s personal freedom, dude. Show up however you want and just do your thing. Like, even at Brown, which sort of values that. But do you think that -- do you think there`s actual like there`s real marginal gains to be made here with institutional mandates, not government ones, but institutional mandates like in colleges and universities?

Absolutely. Absolutely. And look, we can look to like the Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas that mandated it for his workers. 99.5 percent of workers end up getting vaccinated. This is -- most people who are resisting are not willing to lose their jobs are not willing to lose out on going to college. I think people will do it. We`ve seen this with other mandates from measles vaccines. I think this is how we`re going to get a large majority of people vaccinated is when companies, businesses, hospitals, colleges step up.

HAYES: Angelo, what is driving this? I talked about sort of the truffle pigs for reactionary politics. I sense that they are following where people are on this more than leading them there, but what's your sense?

CARUSONE: I think that it is worth keeping in mind here that it's not just an anti-vax thing which is somewhat passive in some ways, they're building something that is actively anti-public health measure, of which avoiding the vaccine is part of it, but it's also flouting a whole range of other support services connected to it. 

And that helps explain what's behind it, which is that if you think about what happened in the 2020 election, right? Trump's theory was that he could expand his base by bringing in a couple of new people, by going further down into the fever swamps and pulling them in. 

The theory behind this is that you expand your base by pulling in people that typically -- who are really, really far out on the edges. And so, they're harnessing power on the fringe.