The White House has been stepping up its community outreach efforts for the coronavirus vaccines, with President Joe Biden announcing an effort to get ahead of emerging variants in a speech on July 6. But at the same time as many public health experts say there should be even more stringent requirements for people to get vaccinated, right-wing media outlets are instead waging their own scare campaign against even the community outreach, continuing their shameful record of undermining the vaccination campaigns.
Polling data has shown that Republican voters are far less likely than Democrats to even want to get the vaccines, seriously contributing to the country having missed Biden’s goal for 70% of adults to have been vaccinated by July 4. (Most of the states that fell short were won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, while the states that have surpassed the goal were all won by Biden.)
But conservative media figures have quickly seized on one particular line from Biden’s speech on Tuesday, in which he appealed to people to get vaccinated as “a patriotic thing to do.”
“Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus,” Biden said. “Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated.”
Now, right-wing media is engaged in a dishonest and irresponsible spin operation, warning people that the government is coming to get them with the vaccine.
Tucker Carlson’s newest line: Saving lives with the vaccine is worse than the Iraq War
Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who has led a propaganda campaign in concert with anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and with Fox’s full corporate support, fearmongered about Biden’s speech during his program on Tuesday night.
Following a segment in which he claimed the pandemic had been “overhyped” because most deaths occurred in the elderly — though this argument also disregarded other adverse effects associated with “long COVID” — Carlson warned anyone who might come knocking to promote the vaccine to “stay the hell out of my house, for real.” Carlson then claimed that a door-to-door vaccine promotion campaign was a “much bigger” scandal than even the Iraq War.
Fox’s far-right competitors were not to be outdone Tuesday night, either. One America News warned its viewers that “the Biden administration is threatening to send political operatives to the homes of people who refuse to take an experimental COVID vaccine.” Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield declared, “Hey, Joe, how about no — and I'm the guy that steps out onto my porch and calmly asks you to get off my lawn,” even as Stinchfield capped off a defense of people refusing the “vaccine Kool-Aid” being pushed by both government agencies and businesses.
Newsmax contributor: Wait, shouldn’t we be giving Trump credit for the vaccine?
During a Wednesday morning panel discussion, however, it was disgraced former MSNBC analyst and Newsmax contributor Mark Halperin who reminded other conservative commentators that they ought to be promoting the vaccines on behalf of former President Trump.
“I think this is the depths of partisan lunacy,” Halperin told former Trump administration staffer Hogan Gidley, who had been denouncing the “government overreach” of the vaccination campaigns and defending people for not trusting the expert advice.
“With all due respect to Hogan — Hogan, who developed the vaccine?” asked Halperin. “Your former boss, President Trump doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he did to unshackle the administration and the regulation and allowed these private-sector companies to go forward. The vaccines are, by historical standards, effective and safe, and everybody should get them. If people don't want to get them, it's their choice, but everybody should get them.”
People are “up in arms” — at least according to Fox & Friends
Meanwhile, the manufactured outrage continued on Fox & Friends, with co-host Ainsley Earhardt declaring: “People are up in arms about this, because we as Americans can make our own choices for our own families, for our own bodies. And when someone’s knocking at your door with a vaccine — are they going to have the shot in their hand? Or are they going to encourage you to go, ask you questions like the Census Bureau does?"
Co-host Brian Kilmeade also warned of negative side effects from the vaccines.
“More and more people are saying — I'm not saying it’s an epidemic and a problem — but no one addresses the fact that there are some people having negative reactions,” Kilmeade said, discussing worries about vaccine requirements being imposed for sports at his own daughters’ schools.
“How scary is that for you as a parent,” Earhardt said, “because you’re hearing all these kids that are having heart problems, inflammation.”
Despite what Kilmeade and Earhardt said, media outlets and experts are indeed addressing these questions: The New York Times reported in late June that researchers had “estimated that out of a million second doses given to boys ages 12 to 17, the vaccines might cause a maximum of 70 myocarditis cases, but would prevent 5,700 infections, 215 hospitalizations and two deaths.”
In a later segment, Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel — who had previously downplayed the pandemic and publicly supported various missteps by Trump — attempted to play a political game of gotcha: “I don't think we have to allow Biden on our door with a syringe yet and say here's a vaccine — after he doubted the vaccine to begin with.” (Siegel appeared to be referring to statements Biden made during the 2020 campaign, saying he would trust scientists on the vaccine but not Trump’s promises to have a vaccine distributed in time before the election.)
Fox medical contributor: Vaccines will save lives — but knocking on doors “goes to the core of our country”
And during America’s Newsroom on Wednesday, co-anchor Dana Perino spoke with Fox medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier, with the two actually talking about the importance of educating the public about vaccines — but Saphier argued that the appearance of compulsion and being “confrontational” about it would go against “the core of our country.”
Mollie Hemingway: Just stop trying — and declare it a “win”
Co-anchor Bill Hemmer spoke later in the program with Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, who has spent much of the pandemic era undermining public efforts around mask-wearing and previously denounced Biden’s July 4 goal as “just so un-American.” So it might seem odd that Hemingway was brought on by a purported “news side” program to discuss the matter at all.
This time around, Hemingway’s advice was for Biden to essentially “take the win” by moving his own goalposts.
Fox’s “straight news” side and opinion hosts push the same scare campaign
On Wednesday’s edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, guest anchor Trace Gallagher opened a segment by likening “door-to-door vaccine pushers” to door-to-door salesmen. Gallagher then ended a discussion with Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain by quoting an old line from Ronald Reagan about being afraid of the government — sounding remarkably similar to a tweet sent by a right-wing U.S. representative about an hour-and-a-half earlier.
Things only got worse that night. In a segment titled “Power Grabs & Needle Jabs, Laura Ingraham connected the vaccination campaign to the conspiracy theory of “global resetters” purportedly involved in COVID-19 public health protocols, and praised Americans for “wising up” by refusing the vaccines. (The monologue also featured a cartoonish visual of Biden holding a needle to a crying baby. Just to be clear, the COVID-19 vaccines have thus far been recommended for children ages 12 and up, not for infants.)
And on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade warned again: “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.”
Kilmeade then responded to a video of Dr. Anthony Fauci the night before on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, urging people to “get over this political statement” of not taking the vaccine, and instead to “try and save the lives of yourself and your family.”
Kilmeade then got nearly to the same point that Halperin did the day before: “How about saying, ‘I just have to underline the fact that this vaccine was driven by the Trump administration, and conducted by and pushed forward by Operation Warp Speed. It was put together by the previous administration, and implemented by this one.’ As much as they want you vaccinated, they are determined not to let you know who came up with it.”
In response, though, Earhardt continued to warn of harmful side effects from the vaccines, and then Hegseth cued up a video clip from Ingraham’s show the night before, in which a guest claimed that “no one under age of 30” should get the vaccines.
So it appears that right-wing media have arrived at a new resolution of competing ideas: The vaccines are one of the great accomplishments of the Trump administration, for which Trump is being denied his personal credit — and they are also very dangerous, and people shouldn’t take them.