I went on parental leave. Three months later, Fox is still killing its viewers.
COVID-19 killed roughly 130,000 Americans during my parental leave, which began in mid-October. With the omicron wave cresting as I returned on Monday, the seven-day rolling average exceeded 2,000 deaths a day. Those deaths are largely preventable: Death rates are staggeringly higher among those who have not taken the safe, free, remarkably effective vaccines against the virus that have been widely available to most people for months.
Vaccination could have been a unifying effort for the nation in which we came together to protect ourselves and each other from a pandemic that had already taken too many lives. But when I left, Fox News’ prime-time hosts were waging a nighty assault against the campaign to get Americans vaccinated. I’ve been doing this for too long to expect the network’s coverage to become more responsible in the interim. And it hasn’t. But the moral depravity of Fox’s effort to sabotage the vaccination campaign still takes my breath away. As the U.S. death toll approaches 900,000, the network’s most popular figures continue to use their influence to talk their viewers out of taking the shots that could save their lives.
The drumbeat continues, as Fox’s most powerful and influential figures sabotage the vaccination campaign and successfully dissuade their viewers from taking the shots that could save their lives.
Tucker Carlson, who is both the face of Fox and its most powerful force in shaping right-wing discourse and Republican politics, opened Monday’s show by promoting Sunday’s rally against vaccine mandates in Washington, D.C., which featured virulent speeches from notorious anti-vaxxers.
He then played a clip from Dr. Robert Malone, a vaccine scientist who frequently makes dubious claims about the COVID-19 vaccines on Fox and elsewhere, in which Malone said the vaccines are “leaky” with regard to the omicron variant, as they do not prevent infection or spread.
Carlson presented Malone’s statement as if it were secret knowledge that insidious forces are trying to hide from his audience.
“That’s not an opinion, the numbers are very clear about that,” Carlson said. “Why is nobody saying that? Why is anyone who does say it censored?”
Carlson is lying, and in so doing he is hiding information from his viewers that could save their lives. U.S. public health officials have acknowledged – and news outlets have widely reported – that the omicron variant can cause breakthrough infections among the vaccinated. Unlike Carlson, those sources point out that those fully vaccinated and boosted with an mRNA vaccine have more protection from infection than the unvaccinated, and that vaccinated people are far less likely to suffer serious illness or death.
The Fox host went on to give fawning interviews to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who blamed the high U.S. death rate on the failure of the federal government to promote unnamed treatments (probably a reference to Fox favorites like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, which studies show are not effective), and a U.S. fighter pilot who faces discharge because he refuses to get vaccinated.
While Carlson spent by far the most time crusading against the vaccination campaign on Monday, his prime-time colleagues both pitched in.
Sean Hannity suggested that the vaccines are useless in criticizing President Joe Biden’s statements about the pandemic, asking, “Now that we know that whether you’re vaccinated or boostered and had natural immunity you’re still going to get it, why is he still calling it a ‘pandemic of the vaccinated’?”
Laura Ingraham tried to prop up a new anti-mandate culture war hero who says he quit his job rather than supporting his company’s vaccine mandate. The Fox host commented that “vaccines aren’t stopping the spread from people from getting sick, so when can we end this ‘mandates work’ charade?”
Hannity and Ingraham, like Carlson, are concealing from their viewers the extremely relevant information that the vaccines dramatically lower the risks of hospitalization or death.
This sort of coverage actively discourages not just vaccine mandates, but vaccination. And it’s only getting louder and more extreme.
Ingraham, for example, rolled out a new segment earlier this month in which she mocks prominent people who were infected despite being vaccinated.
The message all of this is sending to Fox viewers is that there is no point in getting vaccinated because you’ll get the virus anyway. And it’s coming through loud and clear, with vaccination rates lower and death rates higher in parts of the country that voted for former President Donald Trump.
No one at Fox seems to care about the dire results of its product. The brass is watching high ratings swell the company coffers. Its on-air personalities from the “news” and “opinion” sides alike continue to cash their checks. And meanwhile, the network’s programming is killing its viewers.