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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media are spewing COVID misinformation as new wave surges

As COVID-19 rates have risen over the past month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a new vaccine booster, right-wing media outlets and figures have reacted with outrage about temporary mask mandates, claims that the vaccines are a “scam” and dangerous, and allegations that recent surges and attention are a political ploy.

  • COVID-19 cases are increasing, and the CDC has recommended an updated booster

    • COVID-19 rates have been on the rise over the past several weeks, and experts warn the spread will increase as it gets colder. “Hospitalizations have increased 24 percent in a two-week period ending Aug. 12,” The New York Times writes, and public health experts are warning the public to brace for increased spread this fall and winter. [The New York Times, 8/28/23]
    • The Centers for Disease Control has recommended an updated booster shot. [The Washington Post, 9/12/23]
  • Right-wing media are targeting mask mandates, sometimes seizing on local news stories about mask policies

    • TheBlaze attacked a school in Maryland for instituting a mask policy, saying that “COVID hysteria is back.” The piece went on to quote BlazeTV’s Dave Rubin claiming that masks “do not work” and that this policy is “evil.” The policy in question is requiring students and staff in one classroom, with the exception of those with a disability, to wear masks for 10 days after a COVID-19 outbreak at the school. [TheBlaze, 9/7/23; WUSA9, 9/7/23]
    • Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren told her followers that they should not “comply with mask mandates.” “If we all hold strong together, they will not be able to pull this again. (Not talking to the people who have voluntarily face diapered for 3 years- you do you). ” [Twitter/X, 9/6/23]
    • Replying to the news that President Joe Biden would mask while indoors as his wife has COVID-19, Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich posted, “Your regular reminder that masks are garbage against COVID/Wuhan coronavirus and do not work.” She also claimed: “In fact, they cause harm with lung damage and cancerous materials. Not to mention the massive environmental pollution.” [Twitter/X, 9/5/23]
    • The Diamond and Silk X account posted that mask mandates are a “form of slavery” and attempted murder. “Forcing someone to cover their nose and mouth which restricts their oxygen intake, and is needed to breathe in order to live, is Attempted Murder. A mandate is not a Law! The Mask Mandates are a form of Slavery and I will NOT be enslaved to any Government!” the post stated. It came in response to a statement about masking spurred by the Maryland school mandate. [Twitter/X, 9/7/23]
    • Outkick host Clay Travis fearmongered about mask mandates in response to the news about the Maryland school. “A DC area elementary school — Montgomery County, Maryland — is reinstating a mask mandate — N95’s — for third graders over a few kids testing positive for covid,” he posted. “Here’s the letter. They’re coming with masks for your kids again. Get ready. Read this insanity.” [Twitter/X, 9/5/23]
  • Right-wing media are attacking new COVID-19 vaccine shots, labeling them as a “scam” and potentially dangerous

    • TheBlaze shared a video of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stating that “the risks of the vaccine outweigh the risks of the disease" without any other context. In the video, Paul also claims that “the Democrats somehow feel you are a cog in their wheel, and you’re just supposed to do what everybody does.” [Twitter/X, 9/7/23]
    • Fox News host Jeanine Pirro claimed that “getting double vaxxed and boosted multiple times hasn’t been enough to stop people from getting Covid, so what’s the point⁉” She also posted that “Everything this administration and the CDC recommends about Covid is a bunch of hogwash.” [Twitter/X, 9/5/23]
    • Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Tomi Lahren attacked the CDC for recommending new COVID-19 shots. Hannity admitted he is “not listening to them” about getting vaccinated while Lahren said that if “the Biden administration and leftists everywhere were that concerned about a new COVID strain, a new COVID variant, that southern border would be closed.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/28/23]
    • Fox News' Jesse Watters called the COVID-19 vaccine booster shots “a huge scam” and claimed a study shows masks cause cancer. [Fox News, The Five, 8/28/23]
    • Fox News' Bret Baier hosted COVID-19 skeptic Marty Makary to fearmonger about vaccine boosters. Baier and Makary talked about the U.S. not having “delved into the problems with vaccines” and bemoaned the lack of funding for “vaccine hesitant work.” Makary also claimed that COVID-19 hospitalization and death numbers are “not real.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/28/23]
  • Right-wing media allege the current focus on COVID-19 is a ploy by Democrats and mainstream media to institute lockdowns or win the election

    • NewsBusters celebrated recent claims by former President Donald Trump that “left-wing lunatics” “want to restart the COVID hysteria so they can justify more lockdowns, more censorship.” The post also claimed that NewsBuster’s parent organization the Media Research Center has “long warned about the federal government’s collusion with Big Tech social media companies to censor certain views about COVID-19.” [NewsBusters, 9/1/23]
    • Americano Media’s former digital editor Emmanuel Rincón claimed in Spanish that “bringing back COVID in time for the election” has been one of the “White House’s priorities.” He also shared a clip of the president in a mask at a public event with the caption, “Joe Biden wearing a mask again for the Covid propaganda operation.” [Twitter/X, 9/6/23, 9/5/23
    • HotAir claimed that an NBC report on rising COVID-19 rates “has all the ingredients to sell a new season of COVID restrictions.” The article also claims that “the mainstream media wants to partner with government to sell panic and hysteria.” [HotAir, 9/6/23]
    • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles claimed on his show that “they shut down our country for over two years, pretty much just to rig a presidential election.” He then said, “That’s why they’re doing it when they do it again. … They’re only bringing this back in the lead-up to the 2024 election.” [The Daily Wire, The Michael Knowles Show, 9/7/23]
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham said the “greatest threat to the African American community” is Democrats spewing “trash talk” about “things like COVID restrictions, mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, early voting, you get the picture.” “The greatest threat to the African-American community right now? Democrats who have nothing to offer other than trash talk and division,” she said. “And the patronizing racial bile well of course is going to be spewed against whatever other tricks Democrats have up their sleeves. Especially thinking about things like COVID restrictions, mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, early voting. You get the picture.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/29/23]