Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
Fox News is turning the White House's upcoming push for COVID-19 vaccinations among the federal workforce into just another front in its right-wing culture war and campaign to undermine public health — even though Biden's upcoming policy will be seemingly identical to Fox's practices in its own offices.
To be exact, federal workers would reportedly be given the choice of either showing proof of vaccination or instead submitting to regular testing. This policy will in fact be very similar to what is already going on at Fox News' own offices, under a program called the "Fox Clear Pass" in which employees who provide their vaccine information are allowed to bypass daily health screenings. But Fox hosts have railed against the possibility of vaccine passports as "segregation," "medical Jim Crow," and "East German-style 'show me your papers.'"
And in Fox's telling, the upcoming policy is an insult to regular people across America — who are now being dubbed "unvaccinated Americans" — and an effort to dominate them. (Just to be clear, over 60 percent of the adult U.S. population has been fully vaccinated by now.)
Fox's Opinion Hosts Attack Vaccine Policy For "Dividing Americans"
On Tuesday night, Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson declared that the Biden administration "has decided to use this virus to cement its control of the country."
"Democrats rode COVID to victory last November through fear and blame and brand new methods of voting," Carlson said. "And they plan to keep power through next year's midterm in the very same way, by dividing Americans against one another, vaccinated versus unvaccinated."
Carlson further compared required vaccinations for federal employees to a host of medical atrocities: "Government should never require people to submit to any medical procedure, whether that procedure is sterilization or frontal lobotomies or COVID vaccinations." He then denounced "professional Republicans" for not opposing the vaccination requirements, saying they're trying to prove "they're not anything like those morons in rural America who vote for them."
On Wednesday morning's edition of Fox & Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Rachel Campos-Duffy highlighted what they called Biden's "insulting message to unvaccinated Americans" (when he bluntly stated on Tuesday: "If you're not vaccinated, you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were"), as if such a category represented an ethnic group or other community that should be treated more respectfully.
Meanwhile, co-host Steve Doocy tied the increased push for masking and vaccination to the midterm elections — tying the Democrats' fortunes to the effort to beat the virus — thus almost seeming to acknowledge the campaign of right-wing sabotage of public health for partisan reasons.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): All right, so what you've got going on is — and we've been talking about this — the president's polling numbers regarding COVID are actually inching down. And the whole idea for the midterms was, the Democrats were going to run on, "Hey, listen, look, we got COVID completely under control." Brian, you accurately portrayed the fact that 99 percent of the people who are getting sick and winding up in the hospital are the unvaccinated.
So essentially, the White House realizes that it — COVID is running around the country right now with the unvaccinated, but that still makes them look bad. They're trying to get people vaccinated, so what are they doing? They are making everybody wear a mask — even though the people who, for the most part, got the shot don't need it — simply to control the people who have not been vaccinated.
Fox's 'News Side' Complains Biden Is 'Scolding' Vaccine-Hesitant
In a rare exception to the general tone of coverage, Fox News host Trey Gowdy explained the basic legalities involved during a segment on America's Newsroom. "You don't have a constitutional right to work for the federal government," he said, and the federal government can act as an employer, while state governments might even have the power to simply mandate the vaccines for their own citizens.
But later in the morning, news anchor Harris Faulkner accused Democrats of "talking down to vaccine-hesitant Americans," employing much of the same culture-war language that Carlson had used the night before.
DR. MARC SIEGEL (FOX NEWS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT): Listen, Harris. We've said this before, and I want to say it a little differently. You need to ask somebody why they're not being vaccinated — not bludgeon them, not bully them, not shame them. You say, "What's your issue?" Well, maybe they had a side effect to a previous vaccine. … Maybe it's a religious issue. And by the way, I would counter that religious issue by talking the way you and I talk — privately and on the air — by saying, you know, religious, Judeo-Christian heritage, we want to protect our families. I's family. So talk about it in terms of family, but not mandates, not bludgeoning, not shaming, not putting people down. People are not stupid. People can be talked to.
FAULKNER: You know, I wonder if they don't just think that about us sometimes. Just as Americans in general. We're good people. You know, this is the same group that would have you believe that we're systemically racist here, too. I don't want to muddle it. I'm just saying, what do they really think of us? Because you can talk to us. I can tell you why I got it. Somebody else might tell you why they are worried about getting it, but it's an open conversation.
And later in the afternoon, news anchor John Roberts complained that "there seems to be a certain scolding characteristic coming from political leaders about vaccination," including from Biden and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Instead, Roberts proffered, "I think you give them the information, and you say, 'Look, it's in your interest to do it, and it's in everybody else's interest. Why don't you come along to the party?'" On the other hand, maybe Roberts ought to try watching the rest of his network, to see how much outright resistance to vaccination has actually been encouraged, now making a bit of tough love actually necessary.
For example, later that afternoon Fox News contributor and law professor Jonathan Turley said the Biden administration had moved to a "coerced consent" model of vaccination, with private companies becoming a "shadow state" to implement government policy on vaccines — without noting the very company he was appearing on had already implemented the same policy.
And that night, Fox host Sean Hannity — who last week made clear that he was not encouraging vaccination following a right-wing backlash over a widely misinterpreted video clip, asked in a concerned tone: "And is the next thing a vaccine passport, which eliminates medical privacy and doctor-patient confidentiality?"
So while John Roberts really ought to watch the rest of his own network, maybe Sean Hannity needs to talk to the company's human resources department.
Research contributions from Jane Lee and Rebecca Martin