As the much more contagious Delta strain of the coronavirus continues to make headway in the U.S., the growing anti-vaccine sentiment among conservative voters is becoming the biggest obstacle to preventing more outbreaks.
The biggest driver of the anti-vaxx sentiment? Fox News.
If you’re not a regular viewer of Fox News’ prime-time opinion shows, you may not be aware of how vocal the cable network’ prime time hosts — primarily Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham — have been in questioning and outright condemning the COVID vaccines.
The New York Times says the anti-vaccine rhetoric from two of Fox News’ most popular hosts may have made it impossible to convince a certain segment of the American population to get vaccinated.
It’s so bad, the far-right media eco-sphere is seen by the White House as fueling the biggest roadblock to putting the pandemic behind us.
More from the Times:
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 vast majority of public health experts say getting vaccines in as large a segment of the population as possible is essential for helping the U.S. to put the virus, which to date has killed more than 600,000 Americans and four million people worldwide, behind us. However, a general distrust of government, spawned by the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, has hindered vaccination efforts, according some new polling from Axios/Ipsos.
But as the virus continues to mutate and spawn even more dangerous variants, vaccine skepticism that is rampant across conservative media channels is further amplifying that distrust of the government.
It’s not just Fox News. NewsMax and OANN have also turned vaccines into a political issue, and their efforts may have made it impossible for the Biden Administration to reach viewers of those outlets and convince them to get the vaccine, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told the NYT.
But Fox has the much bigger audience reach, and therefore may be convincing more skeptical Republicans to not get the shot that could protect them from COVID-19. The network offered up a rather tepid response to questions about its hosts undermining vaccination efforts, citing past statements where Carlson and Ingraham have said things like, “I think vaccines are great.”
But those comments are drowned out by the recent attacks by Carlson against colleges who say students must get vaccinated before returning to campus; by Ingraham, who accuses the media of not talking enough about the threat to vaccines to children.
Both Carlson and Ingraham, it should be noted, have refused to reveal if they have been vaccinated. Rupert Murdoch, who runs Fox News with his son Lachlan, has been inoculated since December. Furthering the mixed signals from Fox, while two of the three most-watched people on the network — Sean Hannity being the other — work overtime to derail U.S. vaccination efforts, the cable outlet even put out its own pro-vaccine PSA with the message, “We’re in this together.”
“Together” apparently does not include Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.