On Dec. 18, before almost anyone else, 89-year-old conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch got his shot through the U.K.’s national health service, presumably because he didn’t want COVID to kill him. Three months later, his network continues to push an anti-vaxxer narrative.
On Monday night, Tucker Carlson asked why he isn’t allowed to ask questions about the vaccine. “Don’t kick people off social media for asking them. Answer the questions,” he told his vast viewership. “It turns out there are things we don’t know about the effects of this vaccine—and all vaccines by the way. It’s always a trade-off.” As someone fully vaccinated by Pfizer, I am happy to report this is bullshit. I got the vaccine; the trade-off for safety for myself and others and the mental security that comes with that was mild arm pain.
“Just asking questions” is how the frozen fish heir spreads conspiracy theories. Phrasing disinformation as a question is his "news" station’s go-to way to sneak around the truth and endorse something while maintaining deniability. Remember when Sean Hannity was just asking questions about the murder of Seth Rich? Or when Tucker was just asking questions about Hunter Biden’s laptop?
It’s not just Fox, but their friends in this Axis of Assholes. Former liberal Naomi Wolf told Tucker that America was becoming a “totalitarian state before our eyes" (it isn’t); Joe Rogan said he won’t get the vaccine and then platformed the spy novelist Alex Berenson; and Elon Musk tweeted without any evidence to support the allegation that, “Some debate about the second jab though. Quite a few negative reactions to that.” There aren’t.
Tucker has also platformed and elevated Berenson, a sort of COVID hobbyist with no medical degrees most famous for telling Sean Hannity (noticing a pattern here?) last April that “kids, children, almost anybody under 30 is at no risk to this—no serious risk from this virus.” This turned out to be terribly wrong. While most people who died of the virus were older than 65, there were certainly thousands of young Americans who died of COVID according to the CDC.
But being wrong didn’t bother Berenson, or the sort of talkers who keep having him on. The spy novelist, too, has a lot of “questions” about vaccines. In December, he tweeted that the COVID vaccine had "roughly 50 times the rate of adverse events from the flu vaccine." This is not true. Now, he’s saying the MRNA vaccines are the same as gene therapy. Outside of spy novels, maybe, this is also not true. It’s like saying a quart of frosting is the same as a bag of carrots. Sadly, frosting is not the same as carrots.
Similarly, COVID is not much like the flu, though Donald Trump said that again and again, as if saying it so would make it true. “This is a flu. This is like a flu," he said last February . "It's a little like a regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
If that was so, we would not have 400,000 deaths on his watch. After Trump was hospitalized with COVID, and lied about how serious it was while receiving treatments not available to regular Americans, he kept right on shrugging off the virus, telling citizens “don’t let it dominate your life.”
But long before you or your grandma or anyone else you knew had their first vaccine shot, Trump made sure that he and Melania were secretly vaccinated just before leaving The White House.
Trump was the only president to hide getting vaccinated. Other former presidents like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton appeared in a video encouraging people to take the vaccine when it was their turn. Trump thought getting seen getting vaccinated would be a sign of weakness. Tuesday night, he belatedly told his pal the Money Honey that "I would recommend it. And I would recommend it to a lot of people who don't want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly." Maybe Trump had the realization that dead people can’t vote?
But those people aren’t dead yet, which is why Fox News talkers are going on about the need to reopen and cheering wildly for Republican governors like Ron DeSantis just opening everything back up willy-nilly even as Lachlan Murdoch sent a company-wide email Tuesday telling staffers that they won’t be back in the offices until September at the earliest: “The health and safety of our workforce has remained my priority. With that as the guiding principle, we are deferring our next possible phase one reopening date to no earlier than September 7, immediately after Labor Day.”
Maybe Lachlan should tell Tucker about the danger of COVID?
Here’s the problem with all this anti-vaccine nonsense: According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll, “42% of Republicans say they probably or definitely will not get the shot,” compared to just 17 percent of Democrats.
I understand that ill-informed anti-vaxxers are part of Fox’s core audience of conservative conspiracists but I’m not sure endangering core viewers who skew much older is such a good business plan. Some of them have been literally dying to own the libs. It’s not what Rupert Murdoch is doing, but it’s what his network is suggesting that you do.