As the United States has struggled to fully vaccinate its population, Fox News has aired a continued stream of coverage that has undermined the vaccine effort. Fox pushed a claim undermining vaccines during 99% of the days in the past six months despite the effectiveness of the vaccines at stopping death and serious illness from COVID-19 and the higher rate of deaths and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.
Fox’s efforts to undermine the coronavirus vaccines really kicked into gear following President Joe Biden’s inauguration. According to a Media Matters analysis, in the 254 days since Biden took office (from January 20 through September 30), Fox undermined the vaccination efforts at least once on 238 of the days (94%). The network’s efforts to undermine inoculations increased as we got further into Biden’s presidency; from January 20 through March 31, Fox undermined the vaccine effort at least once on 80% of the days (57 out of 71), but from April 1 through September 30, the network undermined the vaccine efforts at least once on 99% of the days (181 out of 183).
The two days from April through September when there wasn’t an effort to undermine vaccinations came amid overwhelming coverage of the final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August and early September, when discussions of the vaccination efforts were put on the back burner. From March 27 to August 28, Fox undermined the vaccination each day for 155 straight days.
Throughout the pandemic, Fox News has consistently undermined public health efforts to protect people from COVID-19. Despite some highly publicized support for vaccination from select Fox hosts and a vaccine mandate for the network’s staffers, Fox’s coverage has continued to undermine public health officials, calling for “civil disobedience” to vaccine requirements, pushing unsubstantiated claims about deaths from vaccines, and pushing dangerous alternative medical treatments to the coronavirus. As unvaccinated COVID-19 patients continue to push hospital capacity to the limit in many areas of the country, Fox’s war on vaccines has had terrible consequences for its viewers, who have been less likely to get vaccinated.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream and Kinetiq video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “coronavirus,” “virus,” “COVID,” “COVID-19,” “COVID 19,” “corona,” “pandemic,” or “outbreak” within close proximity of any variation of any of the terms “vaccine,” “immunization,” or “incoculate” or either term “vaxx” or “vax” from January 1 through September 30, 2021.
We included segments where coronavirus vaccines were the stated topic of discussion or where we found “significant discussion” of coronavirus vaccines in multitopic segments. We defined significant discussion as two or more speakers discussing coronavirus vaccines with one another. We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker discussed coronavirus vaccines without another speaker engaging with the comment. We also did not include teasers for coronavirus vaccine segments scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
Within coronavirus vaccine segments, we analyzed claims from all speakers. We defined a claim as an uninterrupted block of speech from a single speaker. For host monologues, we defined a claim as an uninterrupted block of speech between quotes that were read or clips that were aired. We did not analyze claims within read quotes or aired clips unless a speaker in the segment positively affirmed any speech within either directly before or after reading the quote or playing the clip.
We deemed claims to be undermining vaccines if they described the vaccines as: unnecessary or dangerous; coercive, representing government overreach, or violating personal freedom or choice; or cynical ploys for political or financial gain. We also considered claims that dismissed the efficacy of vaccines; highlighted individual experiences with vaccine hesitancy; politicized vaccine distribution or deployment speed; criticized continued adherence to health measures; or suggested that vaccination efforts are a violation of civil rights, liberties, and freedoms or are a form of control.