With the omicron COVID-19 variant, Fox News again pushes vile propaganda — while pretending not to
In a rigged game, the network’s misinformation, scare campaigns, and Nazi comparison drown out anyone that tries to break through
With the emergence of the new omicron COVID-19 variant, Fox News has dug in on its two-faced approach to the pandemic this year: At once attacking the Biden administration as being ineffective in responding to the pandemic, while the network itself is sabotaging the public response and spreading misinformation about the effective vaccines. On top of that, appearances on Tuesday by some serious public health experts really just helped to demonstrate the shell game that the network is playing.
Fox News might bring on real experts in order to look like a legitimate news outlet. But the network’s anti-vaccine scare campaigns and calls for resistance will always carry more force — not to mention the appeal among its viewers and their own reactions — making it so that the appearances by any serious people will cause barely a ripple.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, President Joe Biden said that the new variant was “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” and that the public response would be done “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
In the telling of Fox News personalities, however, Biden was seeking to scare the public — and that both he and the medical experts represent an actual threat to humanity, as when Fox Nation host Lara Logan compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to the Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele during Monday’s edition of Fox News Primetime.
That same night, Fox top prime-time host Tucker Carlson compared Fauci to the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. He also called out Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, for his recent comment that he would like to see the spreaders of online misinformation “brought to justice.” Carlson ominously warned: “You've got to wonder how long the population is going to put up with this — unelected lunatics haranguing the rest of us as they fail at their core job.”
Carlson further said that “Joe Biden's campaign to lower COVID deaths has been unequivocally a failure. ... But his campaign to demonize a group of powerless Americans — to transform them into kulaks, objects of state-sponsored hate in their own country — that has worked amazingly well.”
The term “kulak” referred historically to small peasant landowners in Russia, who were violently persecuted by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The modern “kulaks” in Carlson’s telling, however, are individuals “who for whatever reason don't want the injection” — people whom Carlson repeatedly comforts in holding firm and refusing to be vaccinated.
Other Fox hosts also dishonestly claimed that Biden, Democrats, and public health experts were pushing for more lockdowns. Prime-time host Laura Ingraham declared: “They are furious that you didn't give up the old normal. … Many on the left truly thought that with [former President Donald Trump] gone, America would be in a permanent state of rolling lockdowns like some of the European countries.” Ingraham further alleged that something more nefarious was behind reports of the new variant, suggesting “two shots plus a booster, that whole special drink wasn't an easy sell. Enter omicron.”
And the next morning, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade dishonestly railed against what Biden had actually said.
“I just don't think that President Biden, if he wants to go back to the well on mandates and restrictions and lockdowns, he didn't learn anything from his off-year election,” Kilmeade said, adding that “we also know we have learned as a country to live with it, not run from it.”
Then on Fox’s purported “straight news” side, America’s Newsroom co-anchor Bill Hemmer interviewed former Trump Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, highlighting a tweet that Adams had posted Tuesday morning decrying the Biden administration’s supposed political strategy to “blame Trump if we don’t get enough people vaccinated.”
For his part, Adams made clear that the right way for people to prepare was to “get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested coming out of Thanksgiving, and have rapid tests available so that you can have a safe holiday season.” Adams also stated that he was working at Purdue University on vaccination outreach.
“That's rural communities, that’s African American communities, that’s Hispanic communities. We need to do more of that outreach, and less of the anger,” Adams said — though perhaps he should have had at least a little anger for a network that has steadily done its own “outreach” against vaccination.
Hemmer, who has himself spread baseless claims against the vaccines, later invoked the point that “the death count has been higher under Joe Biden than Donald Trump.”
Adams replied, “That means it is not about Trump and it is not about Biden. One man alone isn't going to fix this,” discussing the need to “engage the private community” in vaccine outreach. (And indeed, this issue is bigger than just one person — as Fox is part of a whole right-wing media ecosystem that has pushed vaccine misinformation.)
Later in the program, Hemmer and co-anchor Dana Perino hosted NIH Director Collins, one of the same public health officials whom Carlson had denounced by name just the night before.
On the one hand, Collins gave some very useful explanations on the overall process of understanding the omicron variant, and noted that it would be a week or two before the experts will have the needed data as to how much protection people would have from the current vaccines, and also how mild or severe the variant itself might be.
But on the other hand, while Collins pointed out that the main thing holding back progress “is not the availability of vaccines or the evidence to support them, it’s whether [the] American public is ready to roll up their sleeves,” he failed to point out where those problems might be coming from — such as the network he was sitting with that moment — instead only decrying an abstract involvement of “politics.”
“I've got to say, I've been serving three presidents over 12 years and I'm proud of that. It’s really unfortunate that politics has gotten so mixed up in this,” Collins said. “If we could get the politics out of it and look at the public health needs, maybe those 60 million Americans who haven't gotten vaccinated yet would see this is something they want, especially now with omicron out there as the next threat.”
To be clear, Collins is not a partisan figure — or at least he shouldn’t have to be, in a better functioning society. But his appearance nevertheless shared some remarkable attributes with the folly of liberal voices who try to go on Fox in order to talk sensibly, but in the process only serve to legitimize the network’s systemic dishonesty and rigged narratives. In fact, the network is no different in its anti-vaccine propaganda than its far-right competitors like Newsmax and OAN, and should not be treated like some kind of legitimate news platform.
While Collins wished to “get the politics out of” public health, at no time in the interview did Hemmer, Perino, or Collins address Carlson’s warning the night before that the American people might somehow rise up against public health officials like himself. Instead, immediately after the interview ended with a warm invitation for Collins to return and provide a further update next week, Hemmer read from a Wall Street Journal editorial denouncing vaccine mandates for hospital workers and attacking prominent Democratic officials.