Fox News responded to the announcement that CVS would no longer sell cigarettes by criticizing the pharmacy chain and leveling attacks at President Obama after he expressed support for the company's decision.
On February 5, CVS Caremark announced that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its pharmacy stores by the beginning of October. The move was met with praise from health organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated to public health. President Obama also weighed in on the decision with a statement of support, saying it was a “profoundly positive” move and will help advance efforts “to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs.”
As if on cue, Fox News responded to Obama's praise by manufacturing a controversy over the CVS decision.
On Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson approached the CVS decision with suspicion and a remarkably uninformed premise, asking, “Is it OK legally ... to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, “For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It's not illegal.”
On Your World, Fox host and VP Neil Cavuto noted that President Obama supported CVS' decision, and speculated that CVS was “getting scaredy cat” because “with the health care law and the changes and everything else,” selling tobacco products “didn't look good.” In the same segment, Fox Business host Melissa Francis expressed concern that snack foods and alcohol could be cut from CVS shelves next.
And on Fox's The Five, co-host Dana Perino tried to use the decision to attack President Obama's signature health care law, saying, “I just wonder, is this President Obama now saying that corporations are allowed to have values and express them? Because if that's the case, maybe corporations then don't have to provide contraceptive care to their employees or their health plans. And the Supreme Court justices might want to think about that.”
The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted that CVS made the move as part of an effort to evolve its pharmacies into “full-fledged health-care providers” in order to strike more lucrative deals with hospitals and health insurers.
A private company's decision to part ways with a proven carcinogen and the cause of one out of every five deaths in the United States annually may seem non-controversial -- and in fact fits within the free market ethos that many Fox hosts purport to champion -- but Fox News has a long history of manufacturing conflict on almost any topic if it can be used to attack President Obama.