Fox reacted to Dr. Fauci's COVID-19 infection with vaccine skepticism
Fox News figures reacted to the announcement that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the United States’ COVID-19 pandemic response, tested positive for the coronavirus by mocking him and his efforts, lying about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, and making other bizarre statements.
Fauci’s agency announced on June 15 that he tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms. The announcement noted that he’s been fully vaccinated, has received two booster doses of the vaccines, and is being treated with the antiviral drug Paxlovid. Even while helping to lead the nation’s response to the pandemic, Fauci had also been personally treating COVID-19 patients.
But instead of simply covering the announcement and wishing Fauci well, several senior Fox personalities used his illness to push their political agenda by sowing distrust about COVID-19 vaccines. These Fox figures spread misinformation about both the vaccines and Fauci himself, suggested there’s no point to being vaccinated, ignored some crucial context about his compensation, and generally mocked him for getting sick.
Fox figures undermined the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and attacked Fauci personally
Fox News correspondent Trace Gallagher, first to report on the news, said Fauci’s COVID-19 diagnosis undermines the “argument” about getting vaccinated, and it “changes the whole dynamic … the whole storyline going forward” about requiring vaccination.
Fox host Sean Hannity used his radio show to criticize Fauci’s past statements on the importance of getting vaccinated.
Hannity continued spreading dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on his Fox show during an interview with former talk show host and Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, lying that vaccinated people are more susceptible to COVID-19 variants than unvaccinated people.
On his radio show the next day, Hannity falsely suggested that Fauci’s diagnosis proves there’s “no point anymore” to getting vaccinated and only therapeutic treatments are needed.
Fox’s Jesse Watters opened his June 15 show by calling Fauci a “mad scientist” and suggesting that he purposely exposed himself to avoid Senate testimony.
Watters later made an unhinged comment about the source of Fauci’s infection, saying, “He did not eat bat soup.”
Suggesting that Fauci’s infection means “now might be the time to come clean about the origins of COVID-19,” Watters repeated the debunked lie that “we know for a fact it escaped from a lab.”
Watters also interviewed right-wing radio host Clay Travis, who asked: “What would have to happen for Fauci to admit that the COVID shot doesn’t work that well?”
The next night, Watters pushed Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) misleading attack on Fauci over receiving royalty payments for his role in developing treatments while working for the National Institutes of Health, omitting Fauci’s explanation that he donates those payments to charity.
Fox host Tucker Carlson mocked Fauci for his infection, saying he got COVID-19 “despite getting like 27 vaccine boosters” and calling him the “Typhoid Mary of Georgetown.”
Discussing Fauci’s diagnosis the next night, Carlson falsely claimed “many thousands” of Americans “have been killed or seriously injured” by the COVID-19 vaccines.
Fox has a history of attacking Dr. Fauci and vaccines
Fox’s personal attacks on Fauci after he became ill with COVID-19 are not a new tactic for the network. The right-wing channel has pushed even more disgusting attacks against him in the past.
Fox hosts have cast Fauci as a shadowy and ill-intentioned figure for nearly two full years. During 2021 alone, Fox personalities attacked Fauci over 400 times, including one Fox host who likened him to a Nazi war criminal.
Fox has also relentlessly undermined the COVID-19 vaccination effort in the U.S., at times on a near-daily basis, and later in 2021 continued that effort to attack the booster shots campaign.