In recent weeks, Sinclair Broadcast Group host Sharyl Attkisson has been spreading dangerous COVID-19 misinformation on her Twitter account, which is verified and has nearly 300,000 followers. This misinformation includes promoting fake COVID-19 treatments and spreading falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines, some of which has been broadcast on her Sinclair program Full Measure to more than 160 local TV stations around the country.
The yearlong COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the U.S. More than 526,000 Americans have died so far. Yet despite the life-and-death consequences, Sinclair has chosen to air misinformation about the disease throughout the pandemic. This misinformation has been spread through Sinclair’s national correspondents onto local newscasts; Attkisson’s own program Full Measure; Sinclair’s new daily morning news program The National Desk; and America This Week, which was canceled by Sinclair in January after repeated instances of COVID-19 misinformation.
Attkisson has a record of shoddy reporting and pushing conspiracy theories, including explicit anti-vaccine misinformation as explained by a vaccine scientist in The Hill. Attkisson also made false claims in a 2019 report on her Sinclair show in support of her effort to link vaccines to autism. She has been spreading COVID-19 misinformation through her Twitter account, which she regularly purges. All of the following tweets and retweets were posted this year:
- Attkisson referenced “some renowned scientists” to falsely claim famed virologist Dr. Anthony Fauci “widely overstated” the COVID-19 death rate and that lockdowns “didn’t work.” In fact, there was a scientific basis for Fauci’s estimation that the COVID-19 death rate was 10 times higher than influenza, and public health and infectious disease experts have confirmed that lockdowns are effective in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
- Attkisson tweeted a link to her article which alleged “forced COVID-19 vaccination of elderly in German nursing homes.” The article also claimed that “8 of the 31 residents died soon after” being given the vaccine. But a fact check from the website Health Feedback debunked the claims related to this video -- six, not eight residents died, and they died of COVID-19 before the vaccine gave them immunity. Also, there is no evidence the vaccinations were forced; the fact check explained that “only residents who provided signed declarations of consent from their relatives or caregivers” were vaccinated.
- Attkisson repeatedly promoted an Epoch Times article which she wrote to spread the fear that COVID-19 vaccines may be killing elderly people, citing deaths listed in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. But PolitiFact has explained that “vaccine skeptics commonly cite VAERS reports as evidence that vaccines are lethal or otherwise dangerous. But the agencies that run the tracking system warn that the reports shouldn’t be misinterpreted. Search results on the system come with this caveat: ‘VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.’” Another PolitiFact fact check cited multiple experts warning against using such reports to claim that a vaccine caused reported adverse effects.
- Attkisson posted a tweet promoting one of her Full Measure reports, claiming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “intentionally gave physicians false info claiming COVID vaccines proved effective in people who’d already had COVID. It’s untrue.” But Pfizer’s press release about the Phase 3 trial data explained that one of the goals of the trial was to show that it was effective in “prevention of COVID-19 regardless of whether participants have previously been infected by SARS-CoV-2,” and that the 95% efficacy rate also applied to trial participants who had previously been infected. Also, there are anecdotal examples of people suffering from long-term illness related to COVID-19 infection feeling better after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Attkisson also retweeted a post with a video promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 and calling it a “crime against humanity” that hospitals weren’t using the drug.
Some of this COVID-19 misinformation has already made its way to more than 160 local TV stations through Attkisson’s Sinclair program Full Measure, which regularly covers the pandemic. Attkisson’s anti-science stance, which is made clear by these Twitter posts, all but guarantees more COVID-19 misinformation will leak into her Sinclair reporting.