As the Biden administration kicked its COVID-19 vaccination campaign into full gear early this year, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight ramped up its own countercampaign to undermine efforts to get people vaccinated. In the first 10 months of the Biden presidency, host Tucker Carlson and his guests pushed a claim that undermined vaccines in 113 of 114 episodes with vaccine segments on his show -- 99% -- despite mounting evidence repeatedly supporting the efficacy of the vaccine.
According to Media Matters’ analysis, Tucker Carlson Tonight discussed vaccines in roughly 50% of all original episodes since Biden was inaugurated -- and all but one of those episodes featured a claim that undermined vaccines or vaccination efforts.
Fox News’ overall coverage of vaccination efforts during this time was atrocious, but Carlson and his guests were among the worst culprits, constantly undermining the vaccines’ efficacy and safety. Examples include:
- Claiming in July that the COVID-19 vaccine is killing people and the government and media are covering it up.
- Comparing vaccine requirements to Jim Crow, apartheid, and forced sterilization.
- Suggesting that the need for continued health safety measures after vaccination implies the vaccines are not effective.
- Blatantly and repeatedly challenging the efficacy of the vaccine.
- Suggesting that vaccine requirements or vaccine passports are forms of control or violations of civil liberties and freedoms.
- Highlighting individuals who experienced complications from the vaccine or contracted COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine.
- Relying heavily on self-reported anecdotes and unscientific data, such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, to fearmonger about side-effects and potential adverse reactions to vaccination.
Throughout the Biden presidency, Tucker Carlson Tonight and Fox News have consistently undermined public health efforts to protect people from COVID-19. This constant anti-vaccine campaign has resulted in real-life consequences, as Fox News viewers are shown to be less likely to get vaccinated than other networks’ audiences.
As the country is still trying to overcome this virus, Carlson and Fox News continue to be big impediments toward reaching that goal.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream and Kinetiq video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “coronavirus,” “virus,” “COVID,” “COVID-19,” “COVID 19,” “corona,” “pandemic,” or “outbreak” within close proximity of any variation of any of the terms “vaccine,” “immunization,” or “incoculate” or either term “vaxx” or “vax” from January 20 through November 30, 2021.
We included segments when coronavirus vaccines were the stated topic of discussion or when we found “significant discussion” of coronavirus vaccines in multitopic segments. We defined significant discussion as two or more speakers discussing coronavirus vaccines with one another. We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker discussed coronavirus vaccines without another speaker engaging with the comment. We also did not include teasers for coronavirus vaccine segments scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
Within coronavirus vaccine segments, we analyzed claims from all speakers. We defined a claim as an uninterrupted block of speech from a single speaker. For host monologues, we defined a claim as an uninterrupted block of speech between quotes that were read or clips that were aired. We did not analyze claims within read quotes or aired clips unless a speaker in the segment positively affirmed any speech within either directly before or after reading the quote or playing the clip.
We deemed claims to be undermining vaccines if they described the vaccines as: unnecessary or dangerous; coercive, representing government overreach, or violating personal freedom or choice; or cynical ploys for political or financial gain. We also considered claims that dismissed the efficacy of vaccines; highlighted individual experiences with vaccine hesitancy; politicized vaccine distribution or deployment speed; criticized continued adherence to health measures; or suggested that vaccination efforts are a violation of civil rights, liberties, and freedoms or are a form of control.