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How Right-Wing Media Promote Ivermectin Scams

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The ivermectin debacle shows the lengths that influential right-wing media figures are willing to go to avoid encouraging their viewers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Propagandists like Fox News star Tucker Carlson would rather promote an anti-parasite drug that health agencies say has not been shown to be effective against the virus than the vaccines they say are almost miraculously so.

But the saga also shows how the right-wing movement functions as a money-making operation that serves up its hapless members to scammers.

NBC News' Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny last month detailed a scheme to cash in on people who want ivermectin, but can't get a prescription from a responsible medical practitioner. SpeakWithAnMD.com, they reported, is a telemedicine website touted on anti-vaccination social media communities for serving as a pill mill for ivermectin. The website offers consultations for $90; asks prospective patients whether they are seeking ivermectin, the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, or another medication; and promises same-day delivery of prescribed drugs through an online pharmacy.

The telemedicine website has ties to the broader right-wing infrastructure, NBC News further reported. It partners with America's Frontline Doctors, a fringe-right medical organization that regularly promotes COVID-19 misinformation and has drawn sympathetic coverage from Fox News and other right-wing outlets. (That group's founder, Dr. Simone Gold, was arrested after storming the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 insurrection and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct.)

This grift relies on three elements. First, demand for ivermectin is expanding due to its promotion by right-wing and contrarian media personalities and on social media platforms. Second, legitimate supply is limited because responsible doctors don't want to give their patients a drug that the Food and Drug Administration and the drug's manufacturer, among others, do not recommend as a treatment for COVID-19. And third, the drug is generally safe with proper dosing, limiting liability for the grifters. The marks are separated from their money but are otherwise fine -- unless they actually have or get COVID-19 and thought that ivermectin was a substitute for the vaccines or more proven therapeutics.

Wealthy right-wing propagandists like Carlson, his prime-time colleagues Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, and the litany of other notables who have touted ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment each play an essential role in this scheme, even if there's no reason to think they directly profit from it. By serving as hype men for a drug when there's little to no evidence it actually works, they are helping to fuel demand from an audience that trusts them. If they were to do otherwise -- if they were to reveal to their viewers that they were being taken advantage of by con artists -- the whole plot would likely collapse.

Right-wing media companies are built on this type of con culture. Outlets and personalities use ideological, often paranoid, political coverage to build connections with their audiences. They convince those audience members that mainstream information sources that present contradictory narratives can't be trusted. And then they bilk those marks for all they are worth.

The business model for Newsmax, the TV and digital empire overseen by Christopher Ruddy, revolves around this sort of grift. Its real moneymakers are its health and financial newsletters, authored by various charlatans, and its huge email lists, which consist overwhelmingly of older conservatives whom Ruddy gleefully sells out to any snake oil peddler or fraudster who can pay his fee. All of this has been well-known for years. But former President Donald Trump still goes on his close friend Ruddy's TV network; Trump's ludicrously dishonest first press secretary, Sean Spicer, is one of its hosts; Republican governors and members of Congress are frequent guests; and Newsmax's website publishes an array of columnists from all factions of the GOP. None of them care.

But Newsmax has simply perfected a business strategy seen throughout the right-wing press. Everywhere you turn, Republican luminaries and storied publications are renting their email lists to quacks hocking phony cures for Alzheimer's disease and financial conmen promising a path to riches for just a small fee. Commentators ranging from the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to the podcaster Joe Rogan to the "cool kid's philosopher" Ben Shapiro are all hocking brain pills of dubious effect. If you watch a few Fox commercial breaks, you'll hear all about the purported benefits of predatory reverse mortgages and how gold is the investment you need to protect yourself from the coming market crash.

All of these shady sales pitches boil down to a simple narrative: The experts and the mainstream press are conning you. They don't want you to know about Ronald Reagan's "secret cancer cure," or how to make your brain extra smooth, or how you can use their very affordable investment tips to escape ruin during the impending financial apocalypse, or about the survival food stockpile you'll need when the FEMA camps open. In fact, if you were one of the sheeple who watches the mainstream media, you probably wouldn't even know about the FEMA camps. Aren't you the lucky one?

These appeals are potent in part because they feed on the arguments that right-wing media have been making for decades. The lies and perfidy of the mainstream press and the secret knowledge available to right-wing media consumers are core precepts of the worldview that these outlets propagate.

None of these pathologies were paused for the pandemic. Instead, as the virus spread across the country, many right-wing media figures turned to peddling a host of fraudulent coronavirus treatments, at times drawing action from regulators. Conspiracy theorists and charlatans cashed in by rebranding themselves into contrarian COVID-19 gurus.And the leading lights of the right-wing commentariat have ping-ponged from one dubious therapeutic to another, while offering their followers a range of reasons why they may not want to take the safe, effective vaccines.

They've primed their audiences to believe bullshit, and there are plenty of grifters who are more than willing to take advantage. In right-wing media's long con, the dupes shell out while the propagandists get rich.

Debate Over Ivermectin Obscures Biggest Pandemic Problem

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Several national news outlets stepped on a rake over the weekend by credulously parroting an Oklahoma TV news station's apparently bogus report that the state's rural hospitals were flooded with people who overdosed while taking the veterinary form of the anti-parasite drug ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment. After the story was debunked, conversation on Twitter quickly turned to the practices of mainstream journalists, as well as to whether mocking conservatives for taking so-called "horse paste" is effective or counterproductive in getting them to take COVID-19 vaccines.

I think journalists should be much more skeptical about thinly sourced news stories and try to report them independently rather than simply accepting the accounts as true. But these debates also strike me as tangential to an issue that is more directly driving public health outcomes: Influential conservative media figures have spent much of this year assailing the effort to vaccinate Americans while falsely suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe and ineffective, and their sabotage has been very successful in convincing Republicans not to get shots of potentially lifesaving drugs.

In this particular case, those influential conservatives have been touting ivermectin to their audiences as a COVID-19 treatment they could take instead of the vaccines, even as the relevant health agencies and the drug's manufacturer say there's no evidence that it works. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning following reports that some people had overdosed while taking the more-concentrated version of the drug intended for horses, rather than the formulation prescribed by doctors for humans.

Who's been talking up ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment? An incomplete list includes Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo, Brian Kilmeade, Greg Gutfeld, and Will Cain, along with regular network guests Drs. Harvey Risch, George Fareed, and Ramin Oskoui; influential podcasters Joe Rogan and Bret Weinstein; an array of personalities on One America News Network; and PragerU founder Dennis Prager. Discussions of the drug are also rampant on social media platforms including Facebook.

Others on the right are spending their energy developing anti-anti-ivermectin positions. They may not be explicitly defending its use as a COVID-19 treatment, but they are focusing their fire on its critics.

All of these people have vastly more influence with right-wing vaccine skeptics than anyone on Twitter, in the mainstream press, or in the public health community does. The result of their commentary is a strong correlation between partisanship and interest in ivermectin, one that mirrors the correlation between partisanship and rejection of vaccination.

And the right-wing campaign against vaccination is ongoing.

Fox hosts have now turned to decrying the media's coverage of the Oklahoma ivermectin story -- while also continuing to promote the drug's use as a COVID-19 treatment.

"Ivermectin, by the way -- however it turns out, whatever you decide to do -- was developed and awarded a Nobel Prize back in 2015," Kilmeade said while guest-hosting Tucker Carlson Tonight on Tuesday. "It combats river blindness and tropical maladies. Sometimes drugs worked for different things. For some people, they chose to try it. It wasn't out there to make a mockery of."

We know what it looks like when Fox and its ilk go all-in on promoting a drug to their viewers -- it's the same 24/7 shilling that the network gave to the antimalarial medicine hydroxychloroquine last spring. But confronted with the existence of vaccines with near-miraculous effectiveness against COVID-19, they haven't done that. Instead, they've thrown up a host of objections to the vaccines and the campaign to get people to take them while instead promoting drugs like ivermectin that lack a fraction of the evidence in their favor.

It's worth contemplating the best possible way to reach unvaccinated conservatives. But we should be realistic about the potential impact even a maximally effective message might have on a group that gets information from sources within a near-seamless right-wing information bubble.

The people who are most skilled at influencing that audience don't seem to want them to get vaccinated. Until and unless right-wing media personalities decide they care as much about whether their viewers die lonely, painful deaths as they do about "critical race theory" or the availability of Dr. Seuss books, it will be an uphill fight.

Fox News Drowns FDA Vaccine Approval In Anti-Vax Propaganda

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The Food and Drug Administration's announcement on Monday that it had granted full approval to Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for people 16 years and older could have provoked a reevaluation at Fox News of the network's efforts to undermine the vaccination campaign. The announcement was a potential offramp for Fox personalities who have regularly suggested that coronavirus vaccines are unsafe and ineffective and that efforts to get the public vaccinated are overly coercive impingements on freedom, offering them a chance to pivot toward urging their viewers to take the potentially life-saving shots.

But Fox didn't take that opportunity. Instead, the network gave the news significantly less coverage than its competitors, while the network's right-wing propagandists weaponized it to stoke conspiracy theories and paranoia.

The FDA's much-anticipated announcement is a big deal. All of the coronavirus vaccines had previously been issued only under an emergency use authorization while the agency continued to study their safety and efficacy. While FDA officials, like other public health experts in government, had urged people to get the shots, the lack of full approval put organizations that wanted to require the vaccines in a legal dilemma until the FDA completed its laborious analysis. Full approval "is likely to set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges and universities, corporations and other organizations" and could convince some holdouts to get their shots voluntarily, which should trigger an uptick in vaccinations, as The New York Times reported after the FDA's announcement.

But Fox didn't treat the news as a game-changing development with the potential to save the lives of many Americans. Instead, Fox gave the FDA announcement significantly less coverage than CNN or MSNBC, as CNN's Brian Stelter reported. Some Fox programs, like flagship "news"-side show Special Report, provided only brief coverage buried in the broadcast, while others ignored the news altogether.

And Fox's treatment of the story took a dark turn when the evening "opinion" shows came on, as right-wing propagandists who have regularly sought to derail the vaccination campaign used the news to fearmonger against the effort.

"Today, the FDA approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine," host Jesse Watters said at the beginning of a segment on the erroneously named Fox News Primetime. But for Watters this was bad news, "opening the door for, you guessed it, more mandates." Warning that now, employees "are on the risk of being fired for refusing to get vaxxed," Watters suggested that this might "hurt the economic recovery." His guest, talk radio host Dana Loesch, argued that full authorization "doesn't change the fact that there are people who have questions," and she lashed out at "vaccine bullies trying to smear people who have questions as being anti-vax."

"You're not allowed to ask questions anymore, Dana, that's clear," Watters concluded. "Questions are dangerous."

Up next was prime-time star Tucker Carlson, perhaps the nation's foremostcoronavirus vaccine skeptic. But Carlson didn't even mention the FDA news. He did, however, find time to discuss HBO host Bill Maher's rant about not wanting to take a vaccine booster shot.

Fox host Sean Hannity, like Watters, first addressed FDA approval in warning that "now they're going to mandate employers" to force people to take the vaccine even if "your doctor says don't get it" (in fact, employer mandates often include medical exemptions). He also went on to decry "one-size-fits-all medicine."

In a rare break from the Fox prime-time norm, later in the segment, Fox medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier said that "the FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at this point is another step forward to encourage people to get vaccinated," noting that the agency "poured through over 200,000 pages of data and over the 20,000 trial participants."

"There's a lot of safety and efficacy data there and they have done their due diligence on that," she added. But Saphier went on to criticize vaccine mandates, saying they "continue to ignite the personal accountability war."

Fox host Laura Ingraham similarly treated the FDA announcement as bad news for her viewers. "The FDA approved the Pfizer COVID vaccine today, I know you're shocked," she said at the top of a segment that started 51 minutes into her broadcast. "And of course, President Biden is using it as justification to take away your rights."

Hosting one of her regular "Medicine Cabinet" guests, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Ingraham asked, "Professor, did they not push this FDA approval too fast, especially when you compare it to the normal approval process?"

"They did," Bhattacharya replied. "Normally it would take years to get a vaccine tested and approved through the FDA approval process." He later added that "the FDA approval does not change the fact that we don't have long-term safety data with the vaccine."

The next morning's Fox & Friends opened with a clip of Ingraham saying, "the Biden administration is using the FDA' vaccine approval to punish more Americans." Over the rest of the three-hour broadcast, "vaccine" was mentioned only 10 times, according to a closed caption search. And the only full segment focused on the FDA approval was framed around the allegation that the Biden administration had gotten it to distract from the Afghanistan withdrawal.

After spending years convincing their viewers that other news outlets can't be trusted, Fox's hosts have a unique moral responsibility to try to get them vaccinated. But they've shirked that responsibility at every turn throughout the pandemic, and the FDA's authorization hasn't changed anything for them.

Capitol Police Testimony Moves Fox Anchor, But Network’s Pundits Sneer

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

When Fox News turned to Bret Baier for comment shortly after the conclusion of Tuesday's hearing of the House select committee investigating the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, the network's chief political anchor was adamant that it would be impossible for anyone to downplay the devastating testimony heard that day. Over the previous several hours, four police officers had described in searing detail how they had risked their lives defending Congress from a violent, bigoted throng that sought to halt the counting of electoral votes formalizing President Joe Biden's election.

"If you were watching, you saw compelling, at times damning, emotional testimony from these four officers who fought the line to try to protect the Capitol and the lawmakers inside," Baier said. Highlighting the officers' descriptions of how they "fought to hold on to their lives," he added that while Republicans are trying to argue that the investigation is politically motivated, "you can't watch the testimony and say that's not a big deal."

Baier was describing an emerging consensus that is damaging to Republicans. But Fox exists in part to manufacture dissent, disrupting such consensuses with narratives that are more palatable to its right-wing audience. And so that evening, Baier's colleagues -- who helped lay the groundwork for the riots by trumpeting Donald Trump's baseless claims of a stolen 2020 election and then spent the last seven months downplaying and concocting justifications for the resulting insurrection -- went to work.

"We're being lectured by phony politicians about threats to our country," The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld sneered amid a whataboutist rant, going on to describe the January 6 Capitol riots as "having politicians' jobs disrupted for two hours." He added that the hearing was "a circus" and "a clown show."

Fox's star prime-time host Tucker Carlson literally snickered after playing a clip of Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone saying that he's "been left with psychological trauma and emotional anxiety" from the Capitol riots. (Fanone described being "grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country"; the assault resulted in a heart attack.)

Mocking the testimony of Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who compared the riots to his Army deployment in Iraq, Carlson described the events of January 6 as follows: "Officers let the rioters into the Capitol. They had casual conversations with them inside the Senate Chamber. Some of the rioters had face paint and carried American flags."

Carlson also made fun of the emotional responses some members of the committee had to hearing the testimony.

Sean Hannity picked up the next hour where Carlson had left off, denouncing the investigation as a "political charade" with a "predetermined outcome" intended to "smear and slander" Trump and the Republican Party.

What followed was a parade of whataboutism, with Hannity and his guests highlighting how Democrats were fixated on the sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob intent on stopping the peaceful transition of power rather than homicides in Chicago or violence at last year's protests against police brutality.

Later that night, from her platform on Fox's 10 p.m. ET hour, Laura Ingraham described the hearing as "nothing more than performance art." She went on to announce "The Angle awards for today's best performances," including the award for "best use of an exaggeration in a supporting role" to Gonell, "blatant use of partisan politics when facts fail" to Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, and "best performance in an action role" to Fanone.

Over the prime-time block, Carlson and Ingraham aired clips from the hearing only to mock the speakers, while Hannity bashed the event without actually airing clips from it.

Whether or not they watched the hearings as Baier did, Fox's right-wing propagandists did their best to leave their audiences thinking that the testimony that day was not actually a "big deal." And by this morning, the hearings had all but disappeared from the network's airwaves.

The same phenomenon has happened over and over again: Fox's "straight news" side describes events as damning for Republicans or helpful for Democrats, only for the "opinion side" to go into overdrive to hide that from its audience.

The cycle played out after professor Christine Blasey Ford testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her when they were in high school in the early 1980s. It happened again during the 2019 impeachment hearings over Trump's abuse of power in Ukraine. And it happened after Biden called for "uniting our nation" and ending "this uncivil war that pits red against blue" during his inaugural address.

Fox isn't in the business of telling its viewers what happened. It's in the business of telling them what they should think about what happened.

Research contributions from Will DiGravio

Right-Wing Backlash Over Vaccination Remarks Spooks Craven Hannity

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News host Sean Hannity disclosed during his radio show on Friday that he had made peace with a fellow right-wing radio host whose content mill had warned that Hannity's "feverish support of the vaccine" against the novel coronavirus betrayed his conservative audience.

"By the way, I talked to our friend Wayne Dupree," Hannity said of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist, who described the grieving parents of murdered children as "crisis actors." "And he put up a nice tweet saying, 'You know what, somebody on my staff put that article up, I didn't see it,' and he rightfully corrected it."

Hannity's remark closed the books on a multi-day saga during which the Fox host had offered a vaguely pro-vaccine comment, only to backpedal wildly after drawing largely unearned praise from mainstream journalists and a backlash from the right. The incident demonstrates how Fox's cowardly refusal to defy the right-wing media's incentive structure by promoting the COVID-19 vaccine is now risking the lives of its viewers.

On his July 19 Fox program, Hannity urged viewers to "take COVID seriously" and said that he "believe[s] in the science of vaccination." It was a fairly banal comment and came in the middle of a lengthy segment in which Hannity denounced universities that require their students to get vaccinated.

But Fox's coverage of the COVID-19 vaccines has been so abhorrent and irresponsible that an out-of-context snippet of the monologue circulating on Twitter went viral on Monday night, as commentators rushed to praise Hannity's segment as a divergence from the network's norm. Over the following days, mainstream news outlets incorrectly highlighted the remark as an endorsement of the vaccines, and even cited it as evidence that "Suddenly, Conservatives Care About Vaccines," as a headline in The Atlantic put it.

Fox's PR team appreciates this sort of coverage because it helps shield the network from the accurate assessment that it serves as a conspiracy theory-addled right-wing propaganda outlet that is more than willing to endanger the lives of its viewers. But for Hannity, who regularly lashes out at the mainstream press, this sort of praise is useless at best and actively harmful to his reputation at worst. Hannity's audience -- and the right-wing rivals who might try to poach away those viewers and listeners -- are what matter to him. And from them, the Fox host received little support.

Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, Hannity's Fox prime-time colleagues, spent the week engaging in frenzied attacks on the vaccination campaign. Carlson explicitly criticized CNN -- but implicitly undermined Hannity -- when he dingedthe network for having "a position on whether you should take" the vaccine two nights after Hannity's viral monologue.

Hannity received more direct right-wing criticism for his supposed support for vaccination from outside the network, and a post on Dupree's website went after his audience directly.

"Hannity is raising ire with a lot of his supporters because of his feverish support of the vaccine," the author wrote, highlighting a series of online comments from conservatives dismayed by the Fox host "pushing" the vaccine. Dupree himself subsequently shared the post on Twitter.

screenshot

A July 20 post on Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist and radio host Wayne Dupree's website targets Sean Hannity's audience over his purported vaccine advocacy.

Hannity responded by vigorously backtracking. On July 22, he assured both his radio and Fox audiences that he "never told anyone to get the vaccine" and criticized mainstream news outlets for suggesting otherwise.

Hannity made it clear on his radio show that the Dupree post had struck a nerve. He said that the story had been flagged for him as important by one of his employees, and he seemed dismayed that Dupree, "who I've always liked," was coming after him.

"Wayne, we hope you are listening, and maybe you understand what's really going on here and stop listening to fake news," commented Hannity's producer, Lynda McLaughlin, before playing audio to clear Hannity's name.

Hannity's walkback appears to have satisfied Dupree. The story on his website that criticized Hannity was taken down some time the following day, as Dupree offereda "CORRECTION" on Twitter.

Why would Hannity go to such lengths to respond to and assuage the concerns of a Z-list crank like Dupree? Because in the right-wing media, you gain an audience by producing propaganda drenched in conspiracy theories that assures conservatives that their grievances and intuitions are correct -- and you can lose it just as quickly if that audience thinks you've gone soft.

This dynamic has been playing out on Fox since November, when the network's fringe-right rivals stole some of its market share by presenting themselves as more supportive of former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election had been stolen. Ever since, Fox hosts have desperately pandered to the most extreme elements of the right in hopes of slowing the bleeding and rebuilding their audiences.

The vaccination effort has proven no different. Fox hosts could play a critical role in informing their viewers about the vaccine and helping to convince them to take it. They have a moral responsibility to try. But if they were to do so, a constellation of smaller, more adamantly anti-vax right-wing outlets is ready to lash out at the market leader and siphon away some of their viewers. So instead, they pander to the anti-vaxxers.

It's a vicious cycle. And it's getting Fox's viewers killed.

Fox News Is Using An Internal ‘Vaccine Passport’ System

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

If you watch Fox News coverage of the vaccine rollout over the last six months, there is one thing you know for certain: Fox hosts and personalities do not want businesses to require proof of vaccination, colloquially known as vaccine passports.

But now we have learned that Fox itself requires a vaccine passport, called a "Fox Clear Pass." Ryan Grim reported it on Monday morning, and Oliver Darcy further reported:

Fox employees, including those who work at Fox News, received an email, obtained by CNN Business, from the company's Human Resources department in early June that said Fox had "developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status."

The system allows for employees to self-report to Fox the dates their shots were administered and which vaccines were used.

The company has encouraged employees to report their status, telling them that "providing this information to FOX will assist the company with space planning and contact tracing."

Employees who report their status are allowed to bypass the otherwise required daily health screening, according to a follow-up email those who reported their vaccination status received.

"Thank you for providing FOX with your vaccination information," the email said. "You no longer are required to complete your daily health screening through WorkCare/WorkMatters."

The concept, which was first reported Monday by Ryan Grim on The Hill's morning streaming show, is known internally as "FOX Clear Pass."

While the "Fox Clear Pass" is voluntary for employees, and other companies have similar tools, it is still remarkable, given how vocal Fox's top talent has been in criticizing the concept of vaccine passports.

To say that condemnations of vaccine requirements have been ubiquitous on Fox News is an understatement. One Fox host likened such requirements to communist East Germany. Tucker Carlson called the requirements "medical Jim Crow" and agreed with Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk that they are like apartheid. Laura Ingraham said requirements would usher in a "brave new world." Just this morning, Florida's attorney general said on Fox Business that vaccine requirements would lead to a "segregated society."

Now we know the deep hypocrisy behind the Fox-GOP feedback loop on vaccine requirements, but don't expect them to stop.

Research contributions from John Kerr.

Right-Wing Propaganda Outlets Intensify Schizoid Vaccine Scare

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The White House has been stepping up its community outreach efforts for the coronavirus vaccines, with President Joe Biden announcing an effort to get ahead of emerging variants in a speech on July 6. But at the same time as many public health experts say there should be even more stringent requirements for people to get vaccinated, right-wing media outlets are instead waging their own scare campaign against even the community outreach, continuing their shameful record of undermining the vaccination campaigns.

Polling data has shown that Republican voters are far less likely than Democrats to even want to get the vaccines, seriously contributing to the country having missed Biden's goal for 70 percent of adults to have been vaccinated by July 4. (Most of the states that fell short were won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, while the states that have surpassed the goal were all won by Biden.)

But conservative media figures have quickly seized on one particular line from Biden's speech on Tuesday, in which he appealed to people to get vaccinated as "a patriotic thing to do."

"Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus," Biden said. "Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated."

Now, right-wing media is engaged in a dishonest and irresponsible spin operation, warning people that the government is coming to get them with the vaccine.

Saving Lives With Vaccine Is 'Worse Than The Iraq War'

Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who has led a propaganda campaign in concert with anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and with Fox's full corporate support, fear-mongered about Biden's speech during his program on Tuesday night.

Following a segment in which he claimed the pandemic had been "overhyped "because most deaths occurred in the elderly — though this argument also disregarded other adverse effects associated with "long COVID" — Carlson warned anyone who might come knocking to promote the vaccine to "stay the hell out of my house, for real." Carlson then claimed that a door-to-door vaccine promotion campaign was a "much bigger" scandal than even the Iraq War.

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): So, because this disease -- the median age in Ohio of death is 80, your 15-year-old needs to have Joe Biden's health authority show up at your house with a needle. I mean, I don't — this is the — I think — I honestly think it's the greatest scandal in my lifetime by far. I thought the Iraq War was, it seems much bigger than that.

The idea that you would force people to take medicine they don't want or need, is there a precedent for that in our lifetimes?

BRIT HUME (FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST): Well, look to be fair, it seems to me that what they're doing is — what their argument would be, Tucker, that 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. However, you know, vaccines do have side effects.

This after all is not yet an FDA-approved medicine. This is operating under a temporary use — a temporary emergency-use authorization. Perhaps it will in the future be authorized, fully authorized by the FDA, fully approved. But it's not yet, and if people — it seems to me, if people are hesitant to take it, particularly if they're not in the vulnerable category, it seems to me that's not an unreasonable thing and should be respected.

So that's what I would have to say about that.

CARLSON: Yeah, not letting kids get education if they're not vaccinated. Pretty amazing.

Fox's far-right competitors were not to be outdone Tuesday night, either. One America News warned its viewers that "the Biden administration is threatening to send political operatives to the homes of people who refuse to take an experimental COVID vaccine." Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield declared, "Hey, Joe, how about no — and I'm the guy that steps out onto my porch and calmly asks you to get off my lawn," even as Stinchfield capped off a defense of people refusing the "vaccine Kool-Aid" being pushed by both government agencies and businesses.

Shouldn't We Give Trump Credit For The Vaccine?

During a Wednesday morning panel discussion, however, it was disgraced former MSNBC analyst and Newsmax contributor Mark Halperin who reminded other conservative commentators that they ought to be promoting the vaccines on behalf of former President Trump.

"I think this is the depth of partisan lunacy," Halperin told former Trump administration staffer Hogan Gidley, who had been denouncing the "government overreach" of the vaccination campaigns and defending people for not trusting the expert advice.

"With all due respect to Hogan — Hogan, who developed the vaccine?" asked Halperin. "Your former boss, President Trump doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he did to unshackle the administration and the regulation and allowed these private-sector companies to go forward. The vaccines are, by historical standards, effective and safe, and everybody should get them. If people don't want to get them, it's their choice, but everybody should get them."

People "Up In Arms" — According To Fox & Friends

Meanwhile, the manufactured outrage continued on Fox & Friends, with co-host Ainsley Earhardt declaring: "People are up in arms about this, because we as Americans can make our own choices for our own families, for our own bodies. And when someone's knocking at your door with a vaccine — are they going to have the shot in their hand? Or are they going to encourage you to go, ask you questions like the Census Bureau does?"

Co-host Brian Kilmeade also warned of negative side effects from the vaccines.

"More and more people are saying — I'm not saying it's an epidemic and a problem — but no one addresses the fact that there are some people having negative reactions," Kilmeade said, discussing worries about vaccine requirements being imposed for sports at his own daughters' schools.

"How scary is that for you as a parent," Earhardt said, "because you're hearing all these kids that are having heart problems, inflammation."

Despite what Kilmeade and Earhardt said, media outlets and experts are indeed addressing these questions: The New York Times reported in late June that researchers had "estimated that out of a million second doses given to boys ages 12 to 17, the vaccines might cause a maximum of 70 myocarditis cases, but would prevent 5,700 infections, 215 hospitalizations and two deaths."

In a later segment, Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel — who had previously downplayed the pandemic and publicly supported various missteps by Trump — attempted to play a political game of gotcha: "I don't think we have to allow Biden on our door with a syringe yet and say here's a vaccine — after he doubted the vaccine to begin with." (Siegel appeared to be referring to statements Biden made during the 2020 campaign, saying he would trust scientists on the vaccine but not Trump's promises to have a vaccine distributed in time before the election.)

Knocking On Doors "Goes To The Core Of Our Country"

And during America's Newsroom on Wednesday, co-anchor Dana Perino spoke with Fox medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier, with the two actually talking about the importance of educating the public about vaccines — but Saphier argued that the appearance of compulsion and being "confrontational" about it would go against "the core of our country."

DANA PERINO (CO-ANCHOR): I also noted today, in The Washington Post it said in Maryland, 100 people died of COVID in June in Maryland — and 100% of them were unvaccinated. And that was one of the things that the president was trying to say yesterday, I suppose.

DR. NICOLE SAPHIER (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, and that's not just Maryland, that's many states across the country, and other countries are seeing that as well. Yes, the deaths that are still occurring from SARS-Cov2 tend to be those that are unvaccinated. So, the best way to protect people is to get vaccinated.

But again, this is a freedom of choice, and that is what is very important. It goes to the core of our country. When you turn on other media outlets, you actually hear people calling for requiring them -- and mandates. And if — you can't declare independence and the freedom to choose vaccination and then require them as well and say we're going to be sending government officials. These are conversations that need to be had between physicians and patients and not by low-level grassroots people knocking on doors.

Mollie Hemingway: Just Stop Trying — And Declare It A "Win"

Co-anchor Bill Hemmer spoke later in the program with Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, who has spent much of the pandemic era undermining public efforts around mask-wearing and previously denounced Biden's July 4 goal as "just so un-American." So it might seem odd that Hemingway was brought on by a purported "news side" program to discuss the matter at all.

This time around, Hemingway's advice was for Biden to essentially "take the win" by moving his own goalposts.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): More importantly, vaccine — vaccination rates among the vulnerable populations, older people and people with comorbidities, is really high. And so, President Biden needs to just take the win. I know he missed his own personal goal for vaccination rates, but we've done a good job, and he should accept that and keep going forward.

BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): We can still get there, probably get there pretty soon actually.

Of course, the strategy of simply trying to do nothing and declare victory goes back a long way during the pandemic — and it kept failing.

Fox's "Straight News" And Opinion Hosts Push Same Scare Campaign

On Wednesday's edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, guest anchor Trace Gallagher opened a segment by likening "door-to-door vaccine pushers" to door-to-door salesmen. Gallagher then ended a discussion with Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain by quoting an old line from Ronald Reagan about being afraid of the government — sounding remarkably similar to a tweet sent by a right-wing U.S. representative about an hour-and-a-half earlier.

TRACE GALLAGHER (FOX NEWS ANCHOR): Yup. Ronald Reagan once said, "The government's at your door saying, 'We're here to help.' And that's when —

(CROSSTALK)

WILL CAIN (CO-HOST, Fox & Friends Weekend): The scariest thing you could hear. Right?

GALLAGHER: Right.

CAIN: That's right.

Things only got worse that night. In a segment titled "Power Grabs & Needle Jabs," Laura Ingraham connected the vaccination campaign to the conspiracy theory of "global resetters" purportedly involved in COVID-19 public health protocols, and praised Americans for "wising up" by refusing the vaccines. (The monologue also featured a cartoonish visual of Biden holding a needle to a crying baby. Just to be clear, the COVID-19 vaccines have thus far been recommended for children ages 12 and up, not for infants.)

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Every day, the barbarity of the left's COVID lockdowns and school closures becomes more apparent. The great global resetters, who love seeing us shut in and shut up, who were fine with seeing our economy destroyed, and even turning kids into screen zombies. The political forces that exploited health fears, the medical officials who became stars by helping them, and the media that covered for them all. All of them should be held accountable.

Now, it took a while, but Americans are wising up to this charade. Yet, despite everything the experts either got wrong or lied about, they still think that parents should trust them and inject their kids with an experimental drug to prevent a disease almost none of those kids will ever get sick from.



Going door-to-door? This is creepy stuff. You know, someone comes up to your door, outside wearing a mask, showing up at your house, claiming to work for the government, asking you personal medical questions. What could possibly go wrong there?

By the way, are these government vaccine ambassadors going to ask people about their vaccine status? What sort of notes will they take on each door-to-door encounter? And what will be done with those notes? How will this information be used? These are all important questions that bear directly on matters of personal medical privacy.

And on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade warned again: "They're going to be knocking on your doors, I guess with a cotton ball and a needle, and they're going to look to put a needle into your deltoid — stop asking questions."

Kilmeade then responded to a video of Dr. Anthony Fauci the night before on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, urging people to "get over this political statement" of not taking the vaccine, and instead to "try and save the lives of yourself and your family."

Kilmeade then got nearly to the same point that Halperin did the day before: "How about saying, 'I just have to underline the fact that this vaccine was driven by the Trump administration, and conducted by and pushed forward by Operation Warp Speed. It was put together by the previous administration, and implemented by this one.' As much as they want you vaccinated, they are determined not to let you know who came up with it."

In response, though, Earhardt continued to warn of harmful side effects from the vaccines, and then Hegseth cued up a video clip from Ingraham's show the night before, in which a guest claimed that "no one under age of 30" should get the vaccines.

So it appears that right-wing media have arrived at a new resolution of competing ideas: The vaccines are one of the great accomplishments of the Trump administration, for which Trump is being denied his personal credit — and they are also very dangerous, and people shouldn't take them.

Why Is Tucker Carlson Still On TV After Advertisers Have Fled?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Remember when bigoted Fox News hosts were forced to take unscheduled 'vacations' when their hateful speech kicked up controversy and advertisers, feeling pressure from outraged consumers, would head for the exits? It's been a long-standing Fox News tradition, as a way to cool the marketplace temperature and ride out storms.

In 2018, Laura Ingraham hastily left for "a pre-planned vacation" as advertisers started fleeing her show after she mocked a Parkland school shooting survivor online. The year before, Sean Hannity suddenly vanished from the airwaves when advertisers began dropping his time slot when he kept fueling an ugly conspiracy theory about the murder of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee staffer.

And last summer, Tucker Carlson announced a "long-planned" vacation that weirdly started on a Tuesday night, just as high-profile advertisers were ditching him after CNN discovered that Carlson's head writer had spent years pseudonymously posting wildly vulgar, KKK-like rants online.

Today, those vacations appear to be a thing of the past, even as Carlson purposefully courts controversy with hate speech, remaining a blight on our cuture. (He recently lied, claiming the Covid-19 vaccine has killed thousands of Americans.)

Consider that weeks after the election, Tucker Carlson told viewers that "the 2020 presidential election was not fair" and that "no honest person would claim that it was fair." Just two days before the deadly January 6 insurrection, he claimed that election was "rigged" and then, "There is no evidence that white supremacists were responsible for what happened on January 6."

There's a reason prominent white nationalist Andrew Anglin, who oversee the hate site Daily Stormer, has described Carlson's Fox News show as "basically 'Daily Stormer: The Show,'" and called Carlson "literally our greatest ally."

Carlson generated more headlines last week when he denounced Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a "disgraceful," "stupid" "pig" after Milley told lawmakers that military personnel should be "widely read" and that included learning about issues such as critical race theory. Several veterans groups responded with outrage, and pressured USAA, which provides financial services to personnel and the families of those who serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, to stop advertising on Carlson's show.

In theory it should work. Just ask previous, top-rated Fox News hosts such as Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck who got tossed overboard when their shows became largely ad-free zones after advertisers walked away following scandalous commentary (Obama is a "racist"), and behavior (chronic sexual harassing.)

For years progressive activists used that marketplace dynamic as a key leverage point, working hard to drive advertisers away from Fox News' toxic content. The tug-of-war was well defined: If hosts insisted on trafficking in clearly racist, homophobic and hateful language, then Madison Ave. clients were going to be forced to make a choice, stand with Fox or stand with common decency.

For dozens (hundreds?) of advertisers and would-be Fox advertisers, that choice over the years has been a no-brainer. Corporate America spends untold billions each year cultivating brand value and has no interest flushing that away via some hot-headed basic cable host. Bye-bye Disney, Lexus, T-Mobile etc. They all have dropped Carlson.

He's Madison Ave. poison. So why does he still have a show?

What's now protecting Carlson, aside from the support he gets from Murdoch's powerful son, Lachlan, who has publicly defended the host's white supremacy programming, are cable fees. Billions of dollars in cable fees. The network earns more annually in fees from cable operators, such as Comcast and Verizon, that pay to carry Fox News content, than the network earns from advertising.

What's so unusual about the Fox News carrier fees is it's wildly bloated in terms of how many people actually watch the network.

From Judd Legum's Popular Information:

According to a survey conducted late last year, about 14% of cable TV subscribers watch Fox News regularly. But every cable TV subscriber pays an average of $1.72 a month to receive Fox News. In contrast, 31% of cable TV subscribers regularly watch FX (owned by Disney) but the channel adds just $0.81 to an average cable bill. This means, for every actual viewer, Fox News receives a $7.75 subsidy from people who never watch Fox News.

The network rakes in nearly $2 billion each year from the hidden subscriber fees, twice as much as CNN and three times as much as MSNBC. Those sky-high fees in turn protect Fox News when advertisers abandon the network.

Meanwhile, Carlson is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of remaining advertisers (WaxRx, Fungi-Nail), led by Trump sycophant Mike Lindell's MyPillow.

Back at the end of March, "Of the 81 minutes and 15 seconds of Tucker Carlson Tonight ad time from March 25-31, My Pillow made up about 20% of those, Fox News Channel promos had over 5% and Fox Nation had nearly 4%," TVRev reported. So, almost 1-in-3 ad minutes were filled by a partisan Carlson ally, which means he's playing with house money.

We know there's no collective conscience among managers at Fox News. Without the marketplace pressure of advertising boycotts to occasionally shame the network, it's difficult to hold Murdoch's rogue operation accountable.

UPDATED: For more on carrier fees and taking on Fox News, see #UnFoxMyCablebox