Fox’s antivax programming is a moral abomination, but at least it’s “great for ratings”

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Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Fox News’ COVID-19 anti-vaccine commentary is a moral abomination that is driving down vaccination rates and killing Americans, including its viewers. But there is a silver lining, according to Fox insiders: It’s “great for ratings.”

That quote comes from a Tuesday Daily Beast report detailing how Republican elites, including at Fox, have escalated their attacks on President Joe Biden’s vaccination campaign.

One Fox News insider succinctly described the anti-COVID-mandate segments and vaccine-resistant commentary as “great for ratings.” Another current Fox employee said the numbers clearly demonstrated that there are vanishingly fewer subjects these days that get “our viewers more excited or engaged than” those kinds of segments.

In recent weeks, this engaging content has included the lionization of Americans who are refusing to get vaccinated; false suggestions that the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus; paranoid fearmongering about purportedly “authoritarian” vaccine mandates; and the promotion of phony miracle cures. Meanwhile, Fox says that more than 90% of its full-time employees claim to have been vaccinated, and those who aren’t are required to submit to a daily testing regime.

Fox has a particular moral responsibility to help get its viewers to accept the safe, effective vaccines amid a deadly pandemic. That’s because, thanks in part to the network’s constant attacks on other news sources, the Fox audience is unusually reliant on the network for information. 

It is easy to imagine messages Fox hosts could have used to encourage vaccination. But instead, they’ve sought to sabotage the vaccination campaign for ratings -- across its programming and in prime time in particular -- with dire but entirely predictable consequences.

Congratulations to Fox honchos Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch; network CEO Suzanne Scott and the rest of the executive corps; Fox “opinion” hosts, particularly prime time’s Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham; Fox’s “news” lineup, led by chief political anchor Bret Baier; and all of the blue-chip companies still running ads on the network. These ratings victories -- and the associated body counts -- wouldn’t have been possible without all your hard work.