Thursday night’s edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle featured an interview between the host and her frequent guest throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Peter McCullough, which provided a conduit for what are possibly some of the most bizarre anti-vaccine theories yet dignified on the network.
McCullough, who received a restraining order from the Baylor University health system for allegedly continuing to claim an affiliation with the school, has long disparaged the vaccines for COVID-19 in favor of discredited drugs pushed by right-wing media, and called the vaccines “a menace.” Now, he is claiming that the vaccines might be even deadlier than the virus itself — against all statistical evidence that vaccinated populations have decreased cases and deaths compared to the unvaccinated.
In a discussion that served as part of Fox’s propaganda campaign against vaccinating children, McCullough did an odd favor for viewers (and fact-checkers) by actually citing his sources for the claims he peddled, an act that might have made him appear more impressive to Ingraham’s viewers.
McCullough also cited another frequent Fox News guest: “I think in Marty Makary's analysis, there was only one child in the whole country who died directly of COVID.” Makary, a surgical oncologist, has previously written, “I am not aware of a single healthy child in the U.S. who has died of COVID-19 to date,” based on discounting any case that involved another underlying health condition.
All of these claims add up to the same rhetorical sleight-of-hand: declaring that any comorbidity means a person’s death or other ill effects cannot be attributed to COVID-19 — while also insisting that any death or other negative health event in a recently vaccinated person must be attributed to the vaccines. But the more one looks at these citations, the whole thing becomes even worse.
Anti-vaxxers have cherry-picked from the unvetted VAERS database to claim mass vaccine deaths. Now it’s getting worse.
Both supposedly relevant studies that McCullough cited relied on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a government-run public database where individuals can self-report side effects or other incidents following a vaccination. VAERS has become a favorite source for claims by anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, and many Fox News guests have played fast and loose with numbers taken from it.
The problem, however, is that the information in VAERS is totally unvetted and unable to differentiate negative health events from their normal frequency in the population — or even to confirm that they happened at all. For example, a VAERS report that a 2-year-old died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during clinical trials earlier this year — which had not even begun yet for children that young — had to be removed from the system for being “completely made up.”
McCullough cited a researcher who has already withdrawn a key claim he attributes to her
On McCullough’s claim that children are at greater risk for myocarditis, a heart inflammation condition, from the vaccine than from the virus itself, PolitiFact examined the claims made by researcher Tracy Høeg (who is no longer associated with UC Davis, but was at the time) in a preliminary study of VAERS data that had not been subject to peer review.
Høeg also acknowledged to PolitFact that pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 have gone up significantly since the period she studied — meaning that her findings are no longer accurate — but McCullough has continued to cite them, anyway.
PolitFact also cited a number of medical authorities who pointed out other flaws in how the preliminary study was being portrayed in the media. For one thing, while it does appear from other reports that myocarditis in boys may indeed be a side effect that should be tracked from a limited number of instances, the cases have been mild and the “hospitalizations” mostly confined to a single overnight stay for monitoring and tests.
Furthermore, the full range of potential consequences of actually getting COVID-19 still present far greater risks — including myocarditis, with actually more severe cases.
McCullough cited an author who claims that COVID-19 deaths are “35,000 or less” — while imagining 1 million vaccine deaths
As for McCullough’s other claim — that “Ron Kostoff has published an analysis … that a child unfortunately is more likely to die after the vaccine than actually die with COVID-19” — this is where things truly get into cartoonish levels of absurdity, beginning with a paper titled “Why are we vaccinating children against COVID-19?”
The obscure paper in Toxicology Reports, a journal first established in 2014, has been subjected to online ridicule and a thorough debunking by Samuel Klein, of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.
The author claims that the vaccines are dangerous at any age, a conclusion he justifies by not only drastically inflating the claims of mass vaccine-related deaths — but also via shrinking the actual COVID-19 death toll by nearly 95%.
Kostoff made a bizarre claim about the number of COVID-19 deaths, which at the time of writing had been officially estimated at “nearly 600,000” as cited in his paper. He disputed nearly all those attributions, however, claiming that the presence of any comorbidities meant the deaths “could equally have been ascribed” to a cause other than COVID-19.
“Thus, the actual number of COVID-19-based deaths in the USA may have been on the order of 35,000 or less, characteristic of a mild flu season,” Kostoff wrote. “Even the 35,000 deaths may be an overestimate.”
Kostoff then engaged in quasi-statistical wizardry with the VAERS numbers, similar to what far-right commentators such as Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk have committed, to further inflate those numbers by speculating that even more deaths are happening that are not being reported to this open and unvetted database. (Bolding and italics in the original.)
Using our scaling factors, this translates into somewhere between one-half million and one-million deaths, and this has not taken into account the lag times associated with entering data into VAERS. Compared with the ~28,000 deaths the CDC stated were due to COVID-19 and not associated morbidities for the 65+ age range, the inoculation-based deaths are an order-of-magnitude greater than the COVID-19 deaths!
McCullough was aware of this paper, possibly read it, and clearly has taken its ideas seriously as worthy of announcement on national television. (In addition to his prolific writings on COVID-19, Kostoff’s other papers include “Adverse Health Effects Of 5G Mobile Networking Technology Under Real-Life Conditions”.)
And now, this sort of perspective is being laundered into the regular anti-vaccine content on Fox News.