Fox News’ prime-time stars are using their platforms to sow doubts about the COVID-19 vaccines, which experts say are safe, effective, and represent the best hope for returning U.S. society to normal amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 500,000 Americans. Sean Hannity told his audience last month he is “beginning to have doubts” about whether he will get vaccinated, Laura Ingraham interviewed notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on her podcast last week, and Tucker Carlson’s Tuesday monologue was a rant about how experts are “clearly” “lying” about COVID-19 vaccines and that their safety and efficacy are open questions that “you’re not allowed” to ask.
Fox’s turn against the vaccines comes as its audience has been bombarded with online conspiracy theories, resulting in Republicans being much less likely to tell pollsters that they want to be vaccinated. Rather than trying to educate their viewers about the credible science showing that taking the vaccine is in their best interest, the network’s demagogues are doing a cowardly and irresponsible “just asking questions” bit. They're either pandering to anti-vaxxers who they likely hope will bolster their flagging ratings -- or just demonstrating their own deep and dangerous stupidity.
Fox’s role in disrupting the vaccination campaign means that it is incumbent on journalists who are given access to Fox employees to ask them one simple question: “Have you taken a coronavirus vaccine, or do you plan to take it when you become eligible?”
If you are profiling Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who just got a new contract running the network, ask it.
If you are moderating a panel with Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch, who recently claimed that Fox was merely aiming for a “center-right” audience and whose father Rupert was among the first to receive the vaccine, ask it.
And if notorious Fox PR head Irena Briganti emails threatening to cut off your access unless you do what she says, ask it.
Fox’s on-air commentary about the pandemic has often been at odds with its in-house restrictions. Its hosts denounced social distancing on shows produced in home studios. They turned wearing a mask as a COVID-19 precaution into a culture war issue, even as the executives reminded employees working from the headquarters to wear them in its public spaces.
The public should know whether Fox’s executives and on-air talent are treating the vaccine with the same skepticism that its prime-time stars are publicly telling their audience they should have. If they won’t meet their moral obligation to help keep their viewers healthy, they should at least be shamed for what they do instead.