On their “straight news” programming, Fox personalities have been repeating Trump campaign attacks against Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris for her comments raising concerns regarding the integrity of the vaccine development process under the Trump administration.
On September 5, Sen. Harris (D-CA) told CNN in an interview with Dana Bash that she “will not take [Trump’s] word” alone regarding the safety and efficacy of a vaccine and that she “would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump.”
Harris’ comments reflect widespread, bipartisan concerns. Polling shows the public sees politics, rather than science, as the driving force behind the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. A recent survey published by Stat News in collaboration with the Harris Poll found that 72% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats “worry the Covid-19 vaccine approval process is being driven more by politics than science.” And a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only about half of Americans would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine. Experts inside and outside of the government have raised concerns about political pressure, instead of science and data, guiding the nation’s coronavirus response.
These concerns are likely driven by two issues, both of which are obstacles created by President Donald Trump. The first is the politicization of the Department of Health and Human Service, which houses the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, two supposedly apolitical agencies that have been rocked by recent high-profile scandals. And the second is Trump’s statement that we are likely to have a vaccine before Election Day, raising questions about whether corners are being cut regarding safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates for political purposes.
The Biden-Harris campaign has made clear that the world needs a vaccine as soon as possible, even while urging caution on taking the president’s word. Former Vice President Biden said, “If I could get a vaccine tomorrow I’d do it, if it would cost me the election I’d do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now.”
Comments made on Fox’s “straight news” shows in response to Harris’ statement have mirrored Trump campaign talking points falsely labeling Harris as an “anti-vaxxer.” Senior adviser Jason Miller, director of communications Tim Murtaugh, chief marketing officer Kaelan Dorr, director of rapid response Andrew Clark, and the campaign’s “war room” Twitter account have all made this hollow attack. In reality, it’s Trump who has a documented history of promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
Below are some examples of how Fox’s “straight news” operation is laundering Trump campaign talking points:
Fox’s Melissa Francis said Harris is “risking the lives of the people who believe in her.”
Fox’s Dagen McDowell said Harris’ comments were “anti-vaccine nonsense” and said they were “shameful” and “dangerous.”
Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen said: “It is truly shameful to call into question the efficacy of a vaccine.”
Fox medical contributor Marc Siegel criticized Harris’ comments because “we already have so much vaccine fear in the United States.” He also wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal drawing a false equivalence between Harris’ concerns and a 1976 disaster which, in his words, “has fueled many anti-vaxxers since.”