Months after Rupert Murdoch got a Covid-19 dose, one of his network’s stars, Tucker Carlson, called a Biden vaccination proposal “the greatest scandal in my lifetime.”
By Tiffany Hsu
Back in December, before the queen of England and the president-elect of the United States had their turns, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Afterward, he urged everyone else to get it, too.
Since then, a different message has been a repeated refrain on the prime-time shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel — a message at odds with the recommendations of health experts, even as the virus’s Delta variant and other mutations fuel outbreaks in areas where vaccination rates are below the national average.
Mr. Carlson, Ms. Ingraham and guests on their programs have said on the air that the vaccines could be dangerous; that people are justified in refusing them; and that public authorities have overstepped in their attempts to deliver them.
Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham last week criticized a plan by the Biden administration to increase vaccinations by having health care workers and volunteers go door to door to try to persuade the reluctant to get shots.
“Going door-to-door?” Ms. Ingraham said. “This is creepy stuff.”
Mr. Carlson, the highest-rated Fox News host, with an average of 2.9 million viewers, said 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.”
Mr. Carlson’s guest on that episode, the veteran Fox News political analyst Brit Hume, pushed back slightly, saying, “What they’re trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine and, for people who are hesitant, to perhaps encourage them that they have nothing to fear.” Mr. Hume was quick to add that “vaccines do have side effects” and said those who are hesitant “should be respected.”
Opposition to vaccines was once relegated to the fringes of American politics, and the rhetoric on Fox News has coincided with efforts by right-wing extremists to bash vaccination efforts.
Served up to an audience that is more likely than the general population to be wary of Covid vaccines, the remarks by Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham echoed a now-common conservative talking point — that the government-led effort to raise vaccination rates amounted to a violation of civil liberties and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The comments by the Fox News hosts and their guests may have also helped cement vaccine skepticism in the conservative mainstream, even as the Biden administration’s campaign to inoculate the public is running into resistance in many parts of the country.
Public health experts have said that a strong vaccination effort is critical for the United States to outrun the virus, which has killed more than four million people worldwide and continues to mutate.
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