In December, as the third and thus far deadliest COVID-19 wave engulfied the country, Fox News was busy making the crisis worse. Many state and local officials desperately tried to forestall the devastation by reinstituting restrictions on business activity. But Fox hosts objected, calling for civil disobedience against those measures and championing the business owners who followed their exhortations. They treated the pandemic first and foremost as an extension of the culture war rather than a public health story -- and every culture war needs heroes, villains, and martyrs.
Eight months later, the U.S. is struggling through a fourth COVID-19 wave, fueled by the more-infectious delta variant. But this time, there’s a more powerful countermeasure against the virus: The vaccines whose distribution began over the winter are remarkably effective at preventing serious infections, including from the delta variant, if not perfectly so. Rather than new limitations on businesses, we’re seeing governments institute vaccine mandates for public workers and private employers (particularly in health care services) doing the same for their employees. Instead of once again banning indoor dining, New York City will soon require that patrons show proof of vaccination. These steps both limit the spread of the virus and encourage increased uptake of the vaccines.
But Fox, which has spent months misleading its viewers about variants, vaccines, and mandates, is once again pushing back on efforts to prevent more of them from dying of COVID-19. Rather than consistently urging its audience to get vaccinated, Fox is trying to mint new culture war heroes. And this time, those heroes are vaccine resisters.
Network prime-time star Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly suggested that the vaccines are dangerous and ineffective, on Tuesday praised the “brave souls” who refuse to “go along” with the “lunacy” of vaccine mandates.
Carlson focused in particular on nurses who refuse to get vaccinated, suggesting that as health care workers, they must know more than either the “bureaucrats with no medical expertise whatsoever” who want them to get shots or journalists who criticize their decisions. He hosted a nurse from North Carolina who chose to leave her job as a nurse rather than follow requirements that she be vaccinated.
Throughout the segment, Carlson and the former nurse falsely suggested that it’s a good idea not to get vaccinated because the vaccines are dangerous.
“What do you know that the rest of us don't know?” Carlson asked. “No one can claim that you're uninformed or you don't believe in science. You work in science, unlike the people commenting on this, and you've decided not to take the vaccine.”
The former nurse responded in part: “We don't know enough about this vaccine. It is experimental. It is not FDA approved and we're going to put something in our bodies that we know nothing about, and I'm not going to run the risk of somebody tomorrow coming up and saying oh by the way, we made a mistake. We were wrong. Because nobody -- nobody can a hundred percent tell us right now that this is a safe vaccine.”
“I think you've made an entirely fair decision. It's your decision, and I am grateful that you're willing to talk about it tonight in public,” Carlson said as he concluded the interview. He added that he hopes “many more” health care workers who oppose vaccination will come on his show, “because it's a real question and we should have the answer before the rest of us are forced to do something that we don't want to do.”
Carlson’s colleague Laura Ingraham, who has adopted similar false themes about the vaccines, hosted a nurse from Virginia who is risking her job by refusing to get vaccinated. The nurse described herself as a “data person” and “science-minded” and said she needs to “see something other than a headline in front of me in order to make this decision” (she did not explain why she isn’t looking at anything other than headlines).
Ingraham also denounced New York City’s requirements to show proof of vaccination to enter some businesses, calling it an “un-American” attempt to brand the unvaccinated as “untouchables.” She hosted a pair of restauranteurs who have refused to implement the policy and they described it as “segregation” and discrimination against the unvaccinated and an “attack on the Constitution.”
“What is money without freedom? It's nothing,” Ingraham said as she concluded the segment. “Stand up for your country.”
Fox & Friends aired part of that interview on Wednesday morning, shortly after co-host Brian Kilmeade compared unvaccinated New Yorkers who can't go to a bar or restaurant to Americans forced to shelter in place in Afghanistan.