When President Joe Biden was diagnosed with a “rebound” COVID-19 case, right-wing media seized the moment to attack vaccines, mask mandates, and other safety measures. Some right-wing media figures lied that Biden’s repeat positive tests prove vaccines are useless, while others used Biden’s illness to bash mask mandates and other COVID-19 safety measures.
Biden tested positive again for COVID-19 on July 30 in an apparent “rebound case.” He had previously tested positive on July 21, then tested negative on July 26 after being in isolation for a few days. Biden is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. He was treated with Paxlovid, a prescription treatment for the coronavirus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can cause patients to test negative and then later test positive again in so-called “rebound” cases.
Some right-wing media latched onto the fact that Biden had been vaccinated and boosted but still got COVID-19 to lie that vaccines are ineffective. While newer virus strains like omicron and the BA.5 subvariant are more resistant to vaccines, research shows that those who are vaccinated — especially those who have received booster shots — are still significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than those who are not. Still, some in right-wing media used Biden’s diagnosis to peddle lies about the efficacy of vaccines, masks, and other COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.
- On Fox & Friends Weekend, during a discussion about Biden’s rebound infection, co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed that unvaccinated people weren’t getting COVID-19 a second time as much as vaccinated people because “their natural immunities are working.” This is not accurate. A study of the BA.1 and BA.2 omicron variants found that people who have had both vaccines, a booster, and a prior infection are better protected against reinfection than those who are unvaccinated but have a prior infection.
- Also on Fox & Friends Weekend, Fox contributor Dr. Marty Makary claimed that he didn’t understand why the U.S. is still doing the “isolation containment circus” when people are supposedly “immune,” suggesting that isolating while sick was necessary only when nobody had access to vaccines. Co-host Brian Kilmeade also questioned the efficacy of getting a booster since the vaccines available as boosters were designed for the original COVID-19 variant, not the omicron BA.5 variant. Booster shots have been shown to increase immunity even against omicron even though they were designed for previous strains of COVID-19.
- Additionally, on Fox & Friends Weekend, contributor Dr. Marc Siegel mocked Biden for getting COVID-19 after advocating for masks and lockdowns. Though he did acknowledge that Paxlovid helps combat COVID-19, Siegel said, “If you're a president going around telling people, wear a mask, we may have to lock down, you got all of these restrictions maybe coming back and you're busy possibly being a spreader, it's not a good look.”
- Christian right-wing author Carmine Sabia claimed on Twitter that vaccines “appear to be useless” because “quadruple vaccinated President Joe Biden got COVID Again.” He added, “This is not uncommon. I think science has to take another look at these vaccines.”
- On Twitter, conservative media personality Tim Young mocked Biden for getting COVID-19 despite being vaccinated and boosted. He wrote, “2 vaccines. 2 boosters. 2 COVID positives,” with the clown emoji.
- Young also said there should be “NO VACCINE MANDATES” if “even the most protected elderly man in the world, Joe Biden can catch COVID twice while being fully vaxxed and boosted.”
- Former Fox News producer Jillian Anderson used clown emojis to express her disdain for the COVID vaccine. “Biden has Covid twice, but the vaccine works,” she wrote on Twitter.
- Right-wing social media personality Samantha Marika complained on Twitter about vaccine mandates after learning that Biden had gotten a rebound COVID-19 case despite being vaccinated. “Never forget that they fired people for refusing to take this ‘safe and effective’ vaccine,” she said.
- Fox host Jesse Watters claimed that “Biden’s pushed vaccines, boosters, pills and none of them do what they say they're supposed to do.” He also claimed Biden was a “victim of disinformation” because he was taking “unproven” drugs such as Paxlovid, which is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use. He compared Paxlovid to a livestock dewormer that some on the right have falsely plugged as a COVID-19 cure, saying, “These guys might have better luck with ivermectin, but I’m not a doctor.”
- On his radio show, Fox News host Mark Levin took the opportunity to bash vaccines and mask-wearing during a discussion of Biden’s illness. “So just keep getting that vaccine shot, ladies and gentlemen,” Levin said. “Apparently it's not working well enough. Neither are the masks. What now?” There is strong evidence that masks do indeed reduce transmission.