Fox News is seeking to turn undocumented immigrants into an easy scapegoat for increasing cases of COVID-19 rather than considering the network’s own anti-vaccine campaign and political sabotage of the Biden administration’s vaccine outreach efforts.
In the latest example, the network is hyping 135 positive cases among border detainees in the Rio Grande Valley, depicting this number as “marking a 900% increase in confirmed positive cases compared to the previous 14 months.” This spotlighting of the raw numbers of cases in a single area represents an odd and sudden concern on Fox’s part for the level of COVID-19 cases, to put it mildly.
In a recent two-week period, a Media Matters study found, Fox News undermined vaccination efforts in nearly 60% of all segments about vaccination — doing a new wave of damage after its extensive record of misinformation about the virus in 2020. (At the same time, the network has set up its own internal vaccine passport regulations.)
The network’s hypocrisy was on full display Monday night, courtesy of prime-time host Laura Ingraham.
“All right, the delta variant. It’s all we hear about. Well, there are some cases the Biden administration seems to be kind of fine with,” Ingraham said — an odd choice of words for someone who just last week was still promoting “natural immunity” instead of vaccination.
In her following discussion with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ingraham also said, “People are called anti-vaccine when they are really anti-mandate, correct?” But just the night before, Ingraham had questioned “the efficacy of the vaccine itself among adults,” and she has previously called the vaccination of children “disgusting.”
Ingraham has also repeatedly hosted Paul Alexander, a former Trump administration staffer who worked to delay key statistics on the pandemic and privately championed the idea of allowing the virus to run rampant, alleging that “infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk ….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected.” He pushed pandemic misinformation during every one of his Ingraham Angle appearances.
And Ingraham’s not the only Fox host fearmongering about migrant cases. On Tuesday’s edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade declared that he was outraged at the supposed lack of concern for COVID-19 at the border.
“Now you cannot say on one side of your mouth, ‘COVID-19 is our priority, beating this pandemic is case number one, it’s the only focus we should have’ — at the same time letting in detainees who you have no idea of their medical history,” Kilmeade said, further adding: “How many are testing positive in the Rio Grande Valley for COVID-19? Well, of the 135 detainees, they tested positive in the first two weeks of July.”
Just two nights ago, while hosting Fox News Primetime, Kilmeade rhetorically asked: “Now that vaccines are open to everyone and information expertise are everywhere, why does it matter how many COVID cases we have in this country? … But, since when do we count on the president of the United States for health care advice? Let me answer that: We do not.”
And over on Fox’s purported “straight news” side, America’s Newsroom guest anchor Julie Banderas pronounced that “COVID cases are surging at the border, with 135 detained migrants in the Rio Grande Valley sector testing positive for COVID in just the first two weeks of July.”
“There are so many disturbing facts coming out and details behind this on multiple fronts. The Border Patrol agents, let’s just talk about that. Forty-four have tested positive, five are in the hospital,” Banderas said. “This could be prevented — that’s the most frustrating part in all of this.”
Fox’s focus on a “900% increase” in COVID-19 cases from 14 months ago at a border location is a rhetorical sleight of hand, in that there’s a current increase in migration —the product of pent-up demand after border-crossing plummeted last year during the pandemic — so with an increase in raw numbers of migrants, it is obvious that COVID-19 cases would also go up. But moreover, the network is using those migrant cases to distract from the serious problems with the virus in Texas itself.
In March, the acting head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told Congress that migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border had a COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 6% — which was less than the rate in Texas at the time. COVID-19 cases are also now surging in Texas, including nearly 150 cases linked to a church summer camp. Texas is also in the bottom third of U.S. states for its per-capita vaccination rate.
So perhaps Banderas and other Fox anchors ought to consider the network’s own role in talking the general public out of getting vaccines that could have “prevented” these damaging cases — because that is indeed “the most frustrating part in all of this.”