Update (2/18/22): The figures in this article have been updated through the end of the day on February 17.
Fox News’ effort to discourage its viewers from vaccinating themselves against COVID-19 has gone international. The network’s stars have in recent weeks fixated on our neighbor to the north, regaling their audiences with fawning coverage of Canadian truckers protesting their country’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements – and encouraging the development of similar activism in the U.S.
Since January 29, a group of truckers and their allies has effectively crippled downtown Ottawa by using vehicles to block traffic, leading the city’s mayor to declare a state of emergency. Similar protests have occurred in cities across the country, and on Monday truckers blocked a major international crossing. This so-called “Freedom Convoy” originally assembled to oppose a newly implemented rule requiring them to either be vaccinated or quarantine after returning from trips across the U.S. border, but organizers now say they will continue their demonstrations until the national and provincial governments “end all mandates.”
The demonstrators are not representative of Canadian truckers or the populace at large. The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents the industry, has disavowed them, arguing that “a great number of these protestors have no connection to the trucking industry” and pointing out that nearly 90% of the nation’s truckers are vaccinated. Their actions are also unpopular with their fellow Canadians – a recent poll found nearly two-thirds of respondents there oppose the Ottawa protest.
But on the other side of the border, Fox hosts are extremely excited about the protests, even as they quietly labor under the network’s own stringent vaccine requirements. The network devoted 20 hours and 31 minutes to the story from the first mention of the convoy we found on January 18 through February 17, including more than 16 and a half hours of coverage since February 7. Prime-time stars Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are among the convoy’s biggest fans at the network, giving it 2 hours and 1 hour and 53 minutes, respectively.
The network has hosted participants in the Canadian protests at least 19 times on its weekday programs.
Fox’s propagandists have cheered on the truckers as “freedom fighters,” “civil rights hero[es],” and “the face of individualism and rebellion,” while denouncing the purported “totalitarianism” of the Canadian government.
“Canadian truckers ... are taking a stand for freedom, human dignity and autonomy, and for liberty and to make the medical decisions that they believe is best for them and their families,” Hannity explained last week. “It is pretty inspirational. It is a fight for freedom. It is powerful.”
They have implicitly – or explicitly – urged Americans to take similar actions to force the repeal of COVID-19 protocols in the United States.
“United States is sort of the original freedom-loving population but we're not leading the way right now when it comes to resisting top-down elite mandates. Right now, we're being led by Canadian truckers.” pic.twitter.com/XyCsHSQuXB
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) February 9, 2022
This focus on Canadian anti-vaccine mandate protests comes amid a spike in U.S. deaths from COVID-19 due to the spread of the omicron variant. Those deaths are largely occurring among the unvaccinated, fueled in part by anti-vaccine coverage from right-wing outlets like Fox.
Rather than encouraging their viewers to take shots that could keep them from dying, Fox stars have championed the truckers as culture war heroes their audience members should emulate.
As U.S. right-wing activists begin organizing for their own convoy on social media, this coverage may only be beginning.