Tucker Carlson and other Fox News talking heads should be held responsible for thousands of COVID deaths since the first of the year for sowing distrust among the most vulnerable people with anti-vax lies and misinformation.
More than 13.9 million new COVID-19 cases have been reported since January, while Fox News has flooded the airwaves with anti-vaccine propaganda.
The number is trending skyward, again, after a sharp decline last year. What’s worse, more than 99 percent of those infected are unvaccinated.
Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group, released a report Friday tracking Fox News vaccine-related segments over the past two weeks. It found that the network “repeatedly fearmongered about and downplayed the need for continued vaccination campaigns.”
Between June 28 through July 11, “Fox News aired 129 segments about coronavirus vaccines. Of those, 57% included claims that either undermined or downplayed immunization efforts,” the media watchdog reported.
“Forty-five percent of segments included claims suggesting that the vaccination drive is coercive or that it represents government overreach.”
Carlson, who averages 2.9 million viewers a night, has been the biggest culprit by far, but he is far from alone.
He’s steadily ramped up the anti-vaccine rhetoric amid a push by the government to keep its vaccine campaign from stalling.
He stepped over the line last week when he charged that the Biden plan was an attempt to “force people to take medicine they don’t want or need.” He called the initiative “the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far.”
Carlson blatantly lied on his July 8 show, claiming those who don’t take the vaccine would “wind up on a government list.”
Fox News talking head Laura Ingraham falsely claimed on a show last week that people had a “natural immunity” to the COVID virus that offered more protection than a vaccine.
Trump sycophant Jeanine Pirro made the scandalously false claim that the Biden administration’s door-to-door vaccination outreach was actually “about confiscating your gun.”
Indeed, “37 percent of segments included claims suggesting that vaccines are unnecessary or dangerous,” the media site found.
“Health misinformation has cost us lives,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, at Friday’s news briefing.
The motive behind the disinformation campaign is clear. Fox News is demonizing the Biden administration vaccine program in a misguided belief it will help Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections, perhaps forcing another lockdown an damage to the economy.
The real scandal, however, is the fact that almost 60 percent of Fox News viewers are over 65-years old, one of the highest-risk categories for serious COVID complications, putting thousands at risk.
It’s no coincidence that conservative Republican states have the highest number of unvaccinated adults and COVID cases. It’s a safe bet Fox News is influential in those areas.
The more contagious delta variant of the virus is surging through unvaccinated pockets of the country, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Friday.
“After weeks of declines, seven-day average daily deaths have increased by 26 percent to 211 per day,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing.
The current seven-day average for new cases is 26,300, according to the CDC. That is an increase of roughly 70 percent from the seven-day average last week.
Walensky and other CDC scientists are now calling it a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” Walensky said.
Just four states accounted for more than 40 percent of all new cases in the past week. They all had below-average vaccination rates and four of them voted for President Donald J. Trump in the 2020 election.
One-in-five cases occurred in Florida alone. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped Covid-related public health measures much earlier than most states and continues to rail against safeguards like wearing masks.
Piling on to the Fox News misinformation campaign are anti-vaccine activists, alternative health pill peddlers and some physicians out to sell supplements or books.
The claims range from “denying COVID exists and pushing false cures to denouncing vaccines and the doctors who recommend them, according to Imran Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which identified the accounts.
Remarkably, 12 individuals are responsible for as much as 65 percent of the false claims circulating on social media, Ahmed told NPR.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, have been under pressure to curb vaccine misinformation and have taken some steps to block it. But it still persists.
Often true information is spun, twisted, recontextualised, or reworked. Less misinformation was completely fabricated, according to a study by the Reuters Institute and Oxford University.
Reconfigured misinformation accounts for 87% of social media interactions in the sample; fabricated content accounted for 12%, the study found.
“Many fact-checking outlets around the world appear to be devoting much – if not most – of their time and resources to debunking claims about the pandemic. Even so, that fact-checking organizations continue to find new claims to investigate speaks to the large amount of misinformation circulating,” the study states.