Following the announcement that the Food and Drug Administration has fully approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, right-wing media have tried to undermine their own arguments on FDA approval.
Fox News has chosen to continue spreading anti-vaccine propaganda and fearmongering about mandates, and the anti-vaccine messaging has spread throughout the right-wing media echo chamber. The latest iteration of anti-vax narratives focuses on the ramifications of the FDA’s approval, with right-wing commentators casting suspicion over the timing of the news, revisiting notions of supposedly authoritarian COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and spreading distrust in science.
While the latest announcement granted full FDA approval, the vaccine received emergency use authorization last December. The announcement of full approval was expected in early September, although President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggested it could come during August. Despite the advance notice, some in the right-wing media suggested the announcement was meant to distract from the Afghanistan withdrawal efforts.
Here are a few examples of this narrative:
- Conservative pundit Kyle Becker tweeted: “It looks like we know now how Afghanistan will disappear from the headlines.”
- Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marty Makary wrote an opinion piece for the network's website titled “Team Biden, stop using COVID to distract from Afghanistan.”
- Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade spread skepticism, saying, “All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the FDA is going to give full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. ... Do you believe the timing is curious?”
- Tipping Point host Kara McKinney said on One America News Network that Biden was “leaping at the chance to get the news cycle off of Afghanistan” when he spoke to the press about Pfizer approval.
- Fox News aired Biden’s August 23 speech -- during which he announced the full FDA approval for Pfizer's vaccine -- with the chyron: “Biden Speaks About Vaccines Amid Afghan Crisis.”
For months, right-wing media personalities have alluded to the lack of full FDA approval as a reason to be distrustful of the “experimental” vaccine’s efficacy and safety. Some even suggested that the vaccine’s emergency use authorization was granted “fraudulently.” Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren claimed in July that it is reasonable not to want a vaccine that has “not yet even been FDA approved.” However, after that approval was issued, she maintained her skepticism:
Here are a few more examples of right-wing media attempting to sow distrust in the FDA:
- Fox News co-anchor Dana Perino on America’s Newsroom: “It’s the first vaccine to get that full approval and in record time too. That has critics asking if the process was rushed. Was it?” A minute later co-anchor Bill Hemmer asked, “What took so long?”
- TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk tweeted: “How can a vaccine, that according to Axios had a 42% efficacy rate in July, get FDA approval?”
- Kyle Becker tweeted: “So, if vaccines are so safe and effective, why not give full authorization all the way down to 12 years old? The FDA only authorized it to age 16, meaning there is something in the data that makes them hesitant to go all the way. Just a question!”
- Conservative media guest Gina Loudon appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast and said, “This is not really an FDA approved shot.”
- Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) attacked Pfizer’s FDA approval on OAN, claiming Pfizer is “the least effective now than any of the other vaccines.” Host Dan Ball provided no pushback.
- Conservative journalist Jordan Schachtel tweeted: “It's 2021. If you are under the impression that the FDA is some kind of independent regulatory body that is protecting your health, you're not gonna make it.”
Along with spouting conspiratorial claims about the FDA, right-wing media have begun fearmongering about the vaccine mandates that will follow the approval:
- Breitbart’s article on the news, “FDA Fully Approves Pfizer’s Coronavirus Vaccine,” framed the issue in the context of mandates and booster shots: “The news comes as governors across the country begin to make vaccine mandates a reality for certain sects of workers in their respective states. In California, for example, healthcare workers are required to be vaccinated. New York and Maine made similar moves, triggering protests.”
- Conservative writer Carmine Sabia tweeted: “Within minutes of Pfizer vaccine approval from FDA, NYC announces every teacher has to be vaccinated and Pentagon announces every military member has to be vaccinated. How did this get approved so quick?”
- Gateway Pundit announced the news with this headline: “FDA Approval of Pfizer Vaccine Sparks Wave of Mandates: Pentagon, New York City Public Schools Announce Requirements.”
- Newsmax contributor Jenna Ellis tweeted: “Just because something is FDA approved doesn’t mean the government can or should mandate it.”
The FDA approval narrative has crumbled for those who wish to sow distrust in the lifesaving vaccine, yet the vaccine culture war rages on. Right-wing media refuse to be held to account for their past comments, instead constantly shifting narratives and goal posts on the vaccines.