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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: fox news covid

Fox Hypocrisy: Memo Details Network’s Mask Rules And Vaccine Passports

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News has been caught promoting COVID-19 safety measures for its employees yet again, despite the network's own public downplaying of the virus and its hosts' calls for active resistance to health measures.

Fox News tracks employees' vaccination status, requires masks for all

In an internal Fox memo obtained by Adweek, the company announced on Tuesday that in response to the Delta variant, it was instructing "all employees —whether on site as part of our essential workforce or working remotely," to enter their vaccination status into a human resources database. (Emphasis in original.)

The company also said it was "requiring employees to wear a mask in small, confined spaces with limited opportunities for social distancing and where there are multiple employees, including control rooms."

All Fox employees will also be required to complete a daily health screening, and to show either a WorkCare "Go to Work" screening pass or the company's own "Fox Clear Pass," an internal vaccine passport system by which vaccinated employees are able to bypass the WorkCare screening. (The very existence of the Clear Pass, of course, stands in stark contrast to the network's relentless fearmongering about vaccine passports.)

Fox programming denounces those who carry out same health measures

On Tuesday night's edition of Fox News Primetime, rotating host Will Cain bemoaned that "it seems as though we are making all the same mistakes, for example, when we approach how to treat COVID. We keep doubling down on lockdowns or masks. We force ourselves into binary thinking, vaccinated or unvaccinated, and we don't really consider all the different ways in which we can fight this pandemic."

Later in the broadcast, Cain promoted Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's order against mask mandates in local districts. Instead of "compliance," as Cain put it, the Republican governor is "embracing a radical concept: options and choice for families and parents." The on-screen chyron also said, "TN Governor Gives Parents the Final Say on Masking Kids."

The Fox host also falsely claimed that not even the highest quality masks would work at all: "And the truth is there's studies that suggest the N-95 masks aren't that effective, anyway. Cloth, surgical, N-95 — nothing is very effective in stopping COVID."

And the next morning's edition of Fox & Friends had a segment on "Fighting School Mask Mandates," which discussed resistance to supposedly oppressive public health restrictions not only in New York City but also in Charleston, South Carolina, highlighting a city council meeting at which attendees successfully objected to passing a mask mandate.

The segment glowingly presented a video of a local resident who said she had "fled the tyranny of New York" — though the policies she was protesting could have just as easily been the "tyranny" of Fox News with its own employees.

Afterward, co-host Steve Doocy discussed a story elsewhere in South Carolina, in which a school district closed down in-person instruction within the first two weeks of the semester and went back to remote learning after 142 students tested positive for COVID-19, as well as a number of teachers.

Doocy objected to this whole situation — not that the cases were so high, but that the schools were closing down again because of the cases. "That's causing a big problem, because they changed their mind a couple of days ago. And what are working parents supposed to do?"

"Why close down the entire district?" co-host Ainsley Earhardt also asked. "Why send everyone home and do Zoom, if it's one classroom, or if it's one school?"

"That is double the number of people who had COVID in the schools in the last year," Doocy added. "Apparently, they freaked out."

One only has to wonder how Fox News executives would "freak out" if such an event occurred in their own offices, with the guidelines they have now posted to all employees. In a previous company memo, Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch announced that remote work would continue through Labor Day, declaring that "the health and safety of our workforce has remained my priority."

Fox Promotes Disgraced Trump CDC Appointee Who Minimized Covid Crisis

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In the last few months, Fox News' Laura Ingraham has repeatedly hosted Paul Alexander, former science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump and key aide to Trump loyalist and former HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo. While working for Caputo at HHS, Alexander sought to politicize public health guidance from inside the government bureaucracy, seeking to alter reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which reflected poorly on the Trump administration.

Politico reported in September 2020 that Alexander "was effective at delaying the famed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports and watering down guidance" from the CDC. (The reports are a key CDC communications product that provides updates on the state of the pandemic, among other things.) In one email reported by Politico, Alexander wrote, "Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected." This strategy is deadly flawed, to say the least.

The erroneous political hackery of Alexander makes him the ideal guest for Ingraham, Fox's worst COVID-19 misinformer. In fact, Alexander has pushed misinformation during every one of his seven appearances on The Ingraham Angle:

  • On February 23, Alexander claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci "has shifted from becoming a scientists physician and more towards a political physician."
  • On February 25, Alexander claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine is "not entirely effective" and will not prevent "moderate to severe illness or even death." He also suggested that wearing a mask is "actually harmful."
  • During the March 5 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Alexander said that mask mandates are "very ineffective."
  • On March 12, Alexander claimed that kids "don't spread" COVID-19 to parents and teachers.
  • During the April 1 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Alexander purported that vaccinating children is "incredibly dangerous."
  • On April 22, Alexander said the CDC's guidance on mask-wearing "is about driving fear and obedience" and again claimed that masks are "ineffective."
  • On May 4, Alexander appeared on The Ingraham Angle to cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccine, describing it as "experimental" and "highly untested as to safety."

As far as medical expertise goes, Alexander and Ingraham are a perfect match: According to The Washington Post, Alexander, who is not a physician, was "an unpaid, part-time health professor" at a Canadian university prior to joining HHS, while Ingraham has a history of pushing misinformation about all aspects of the pandemic -- attacking masks, vaccines, and social distancing, pushing unproven therapeutics, undermining public health experts, platforming quacks, and promoting a so-called "herd immunity" strategy that would lead to millions of unnecessary deaths.

It's nearly impossible to picture someone with Alexander's disgraceful background of lying to the public about the pandemic appearing anywhere else on cable news, but that hasn't stopped Ingraham from inviting him seven times to spread COVID misinformation on Fox prime time.

Research contributions from Katherine Abughazaleh

Fox News Mocks Pandemic Health Rules But Enforces Masks, Tests, Distance For Staff

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News executives, up to and including Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, have allowed the network's commentators to risk the lives of their viewers by downplaying the danger posed by the novel coronavirus. At the same time, those executives implemented serious public health measures -- the likes of which Fox personalities have denounced on-air -- to protect their staff and themselves from COVID-19.

Over the last year, Fox's on-air programming often discouraged its viewers from taking steps to protect themselves from the pandemic that has now killed more than 550,000 Americans -- and polls show those viewers listened.

Network commentators eagerly championed protests against business closures and social distancing measures; turned face masks into a culture war flashpoint; denounced urgent government warnings about how to stay safe over the holiday season; and expressed skepticism about vaccination.

But while Fox's on-air talent has told their audience that they need not take the pandemic too seriously, the network brass has responded with urgency.

Here are some of the steps Fox's corporate leadership took since the pandemic began to protect themselves and their employees, even as they profited from an audience that had been urged to disregard the virus.

On-Camera Distancing, Home Studios, Closed Offices

Fox personalities have repeatedly suggested that social distancing is ineffectivein preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and they have aggressively promoted protests against such measures.

But the rants of the on-air talent have come under socially distanced conditions enforced by Fox executives. Since mid-March of last year, Fox hosts have anchored their programs either from home studios, from trucks filled with studio equipment outside their homes, or from Fox studios retrofitted to allow substantial distance between participants.

In early May, Fox hosts were declaring the crisis over and rallying behind then-President Donald Trump's push to "reopen the country" by ending business closures enacted to slow the spread of the virus.

At the same time, Fox executives were pushing back plans to fully reopen their own offices, with only a skeleton crew working at Fox News headquarters to keep the network on-air. "A Friday memo from Fox Corp chief operating officer John Nallen extended the company's work from home directive through June 15," CNN's Brian Stelter reported on May 12, 2020.

He added, "On that date, at the earliest, Fox Corp properties like Fox News will begin a gradual reopening of offices. The date could very well be delayed further." It was.

Indeed, Fox's parent company, Fox Corp., has continued to push back the date at which it would reopen its offices. Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corp.'s CEO, wrote in a internal memo last month that because "the health and safety of our workforce has remained my priority," the company's return-to-work date would come "no earlier than September 7, immediately after Labor Day."

Mask Wearing At Fox Offices

Some Fox personalities, particularly Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have frequently used their shows to cast doubt on the effectiveness of face masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Trump, a frequent Fox viewer, adopted that view, and polls show a swath of the network's audience did as well.

But masks are required in the common spaces at Fox's headquarters for those who do work in person, according to a network memo.

"We'd like to remind all employees to also don a face covering in Fox News Media shared spaces, particularly when you're not at a socially distanced workstation," the June 18, 2020, memo stated. "For your safety and the safety of others, the CDC as well as state & local officials have asked everyone to wear a face covering when unable to maintain 6-feet of social distance between one another."

Strict Rules For Live Audiences

When Fox tapes shows before a live audience, those participants agree to an array of pandemic measures. CNN's Oliver Darcy noted in response to a posting about tickets for the upcoming Fox program Gutfeld!:

Other Fox programs featuring live audiences have similarly required social distancing and mask usage.

event

Rupert Murdoch Immediately Vaccinated

Carlson has emerged in recent months as perhaps the nation's foremost coronavirus vaccine skeptic, using his massive platform to argue that the vaccines are less effective and more dangerous than advertised. He's been rewarded for that commentary, becoming the undisputed face of the network since the 2020 election. His prime-time colleague Ingraham has adopted similar themes.

One person who does not share Carlson's vaccine skepticism is the Fox host's foremost patron, network founder Rupert Murdoch. The Fox Corp. co-chairman was among the first people on the planet to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, receiving his first dose in December, a few months before turning 90.

"I would like to thank the key workers and the NHS (National Health Service) staff who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic, and the amazing scientists who have made this vaccine possible," Murdoch said in a statement at the time, adding, "I strongly encourage people around the world to get the vaccine as it becomes available."

Lachlan Murdoch Departs For COVID-Free Australia

Lachlan Murdoch was so eager to get away from the coronavirus that he fled the country last month.

The Fox Corp. executive chairman and his family left Los Angeles, where he and other top executives had been based, for their $50 million home in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia.

Why might he try to manage a cable news network from the other side of the globe? The country has some of the world's lowest coronavirus rates -- in part due to its strict quarantine procedures.

Fox News Buried Trump’s Endorsement Of Vaccination Campaign

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former President Donald Trump urged Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday night. "I would recommend it to a lot of people that don't want to get it — and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly," he said during a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo. "It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works." While Trump caveated his comments by saying that "we have our freedoms and we have to live by that," his comments were nonetheless significant because, as he indicated, polls show Republicans are particularly hesitant to take the vaccine.

But Trump's remarks will have an impact only if his supporters hear them. And while his comments originally aired on Fox, that network -- by far the most popular and influential among Trump voters -- has largely ignored them since.

In the 36 hours following Trump's vaccine endorsement, Fox devoted only about six and a half minutes to the remarks. Only a handful of programs covered the remarks; flagship "straight news" broadcast Special Report and popular opinion shows The Five, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle are among those that have not aired or referenced the comments.

Sean Hannity became the only Fox prime-time host thus far to discuss Trump's vaccine endorsement when he briefly mentioned it (without playing the clip) on Wednesday night. But that aside came in the context of criticizing mainstream media for "chastising" Republicans for not wanting to get vaccinated.

Hannity, to his credit, said that he personally plans to get the shot and acknowledged Trump's comments, but then pivoted to arguing that "it isn't really anyone's business" who gets vaccinated and that "you need to make your own decision" no matter what liberals say.


It's not hard to tell when Fox's hosts and executives want the network's viewers to hear a politician's comment -- the clip will air over and over again across the network's programming, interspersed with segments dissecting it.

That's what happened when President Joe Biden described Republican governors who lifted COVID restrictions, including mask mandates, as engaged in "Neanderthal thinking" on March 3.

Fox ran roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes of coverage about the purported controversy over the following 36 hours — 12 times as much coverage as it later devoted to Trump's vaccine endorsement. The "Neanderthal" commentary spanned almost the entire Fox lineup during that timespan, with several shows featuring multiple segments of discussion.

Fox could have treated Trump's comments with the same urgency that it did a random Bidenism, using the network's megaphone to encourage their viewers to be safe. But Fox's hosts are apparently more interested in making their audiences feel victimizedthan they are in keeping viewers healthy and alive, and its executives, including the Murdochs, are willing to let them as long as the money continues rolling in.

Bar chart comparing Fox coverage of Trump endorsing vaccines vs. its coverage of Biden's "neanderthal" comment

I keep coming back to this because it's true: Fox has a unique moral responsibility, having successfully convinced viewers not to believe anything mainstream news outlets report. There are vanishingly few other vehicles available to reach the network's audience with critical public health information. The network could be trying to create a permission structure to help viewers decide to take safe, effective shots in order to drastically reduce their personal risk from a deadly virus that has killed more than 530,000 Americans.

But Fox is instead failing its viewers, as it has throughout the pandemic. The network's most popular hosts would rather pander to anti-vaxxers for ratings and clout than tell their viewers, "I am going to get vaccinated, just like our founder Rupert Murdoch did, and you should too."

It's disgusting and cowardly and everyone involved should be ashamed.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any variation of the term "vaccine" within close proximity of the term "Trump" from March 16 through 8 a.m. EDT March 18, 2021.

We also searched the transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for the term "Neanderthal" from March 3 through March 5, 2021.

We timed any segments, which we defined as instances when either story was the stated topic of discussion or when we found "significant discussion" of either topic. We defined "significant discussion" as instances when two or more speakers discussed either topic with one another. We also timed teasers for segments coming up later in the broadcast, and we timed passing mentions of either story, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned either topic without another speaker in the same segment engaging with the comment.

We included any instances that fell within the first 36 hours after Biden and Trump's comments. We rounded all times to the nearest half-minute.

Research contributions from Lis Power and Rob Savillo