NY Times ignores right-wing media's anti-vaccine campaign in coverage of COVID-19 death rates

The Times ignores any real cause for why Americans are dying of COVID-19 at a far higher rate than the rest of the developed world

The New York Times published an article Tuesday, titled “U.S. Has Far Higher Covid Death Rate Than Other Wealthy Countries,” that presents a master class in not holding anyone accountable for the vast network of anti-vaccine propaganda coming from the American right.

It is absolutely vital that media outlets should point fingers directly at those responsible for the right-wing campaign against vaccines during a deadly pandemic, which has resulted in Republicans being disproportionately unvaccinated, instead of simply looking the other way on this central issue. Indeed, it has long appeared as if this could potentially be a deliberate act of sabotage, in order to score political points that vaccination rates were now too low — or maybe the motivation here is that it’s just “great for ratings.”

Whatever their motivations might be, right-wing media outlets are killing their own viewers with anti-vaccine propaganda, urging them to become culture war heroes and then forgetting about them when they die. Mainstream media outlets like the Times need to include that context when presenting ghastly national numbers like these:

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Citation The New York Times, February 1, 2022

Vaccines continue to be the most reliable way to avoid hospitalization for COVID-19, even for breakthrough cases, as the article itself acknowledged that “unvaccinated people make up a majority of hospitalized patients.” But the Times article never discussed the reasons for people to have still refused vaccination — instead turning the U.S. deficit compared to other industrialized countries into some kind of amorphous national failure.

“Despite having one of the world’s most powerful arsenals of vaccines, the country has failed to vaccinate as many people as other large, wealthy nations,” the article said, adding: “The United States has fallen even further behind in administering booster shots, leaving large numbers of vulnerable people with fading protection as Omicron sweeps across the country.”

The phrasing that the country is supposedly “leaving large numbers of vulnerable people” appears totally divorced from the reality in which the vaccines are plentiful and available to anyone who seeks them. Instead, there is a right-wing media ecosystem, especially centered on Fox News, that has actively propagandized that the vaccines are a “failure,” the booster shots are supposedly more dangerous than remaining unvaccinated, and vaccine mandates are really a plot against American freedom. (Fox News hosts and commentators are almost all vaccinated, by the way.)

And this right-wing media campaign against public health is larger than just Fox News, as outlets like Sinclair Broadcasting and One America News Network, Spotify host Joe Rogan, the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, and other miscreants have pushed their own dangerous messages in opposition to vaccines and falsely compared vaccine mandates to Nazi war crimes.

The Times article notes that “Americans began dying from Covid at higher rates than people in western European countries starting in the summer, after the United States had fallen behind on vaccinations.” This was a period in which Fox News was undermining the vaccines to its conservative audience nearly every day, but any sort of political context like this is never mentioned.

The article also discussed the possibility that the U.S. population could be reaching the point of herd immunity with the combination of vaccinations and infections, compared to the immunity that “other countries generated through vaccinations — at the cost, scientists said, of many thousands of American lives.”

Keep in mind that Fox late night host Greg Gutfeld has called omicron infection “nature’s vaccination.” The Times article noted that this attitude has cost “many thousands of American lives” that might have been saved by vaccination, but never tried to explain why so many people have refused life-saving vaccines.

The closest that the article came to acknowledging any political context was by citing an amorphous sense of “distrust”: “More Americans have also come to express distrust — of the government, and of each other — in recent decades, making them less inclined to follow public health precautions like getting vaccinated or reducing their contacts during surges.” 

But as for where this “distrust” has come from and its role in exacerbating the pandemic, such as the fact that Fox News and other right-wing media viewers are more likely to believe vaccine misinformation, the article said nothing.

It is clear from the data that the right-wing campaign to undermine confidence in vaccines and other public health measures is actually working — and it’s getting people killed. All reporting on America's struggle to tackle the pandemic needs to admit this fact.