Reprinted with permission from PressRun
After spending much of 2020 and the first half of 2021 raging against mask mandates and whining about how forcing workers to get vaccinated represented the trampling of individual liberties, Fox News in recent weeks and months has proudly sprinted ahead into the realm of unrestrained anti-vaccine propaganda.
Loudly embracing what until just a couple years ago was considered loony fringe rhetoric about mainstream inoculations, Rupert Murdoch’s network — where all hosts are fully vaccinated — now unapologetically peddles every conceivable form of medical misinformation as America battles its second year of a public health crisis.
Question: Will we ever know how many people Murdoch’s empire killed during the pandemic?
“Why are we forcing people to get vaccinated when you’re more likely to get the virus if you’re vaccinated in the variant that we have right now?” the network’s Rachel Campos-Duffy recently asked, echoing Fox’s primetime anti-vaxxer, Tucker Carlson: “There is evidence that people who get the booster are more likely to get the latest variant.”
In no other country where Murdoch owns properties and enjoys political leverage, such as Britain and Australia, have his media outlets endangered so many lives the way Fox News has in the U.S. There’s been a conscious decision by Murdoch to unleash on America an anti-science, anti-vaccine campaign the likes of which has never been seen before in modern media, which is why this NPR headline surprised nobody: “Study Finds More COVID-19 Cases Among Viewers Of Fox News Host Who Downplayed Pandemic.”
Why is Murdoch allowing, and even encouraging, the life-threatening programming to fester on Fox? He’s terrified of being outflanked by even more rabid, right-wing media outlets, such as OAN, and Newsmax. Committed to never allowing a sizeable audience take hold to the right of Fox News, Murdoch has made a calculated decision that actively endangering his viewers is preferable to them switching over to another channel.
One month after the 2020 election, Fox’s ratings were reeling as Newsmax vacuumed up MAGA viewers by telling them it's not possible to know who had won the presidential election this year, and that Trump's second term was still within reach. The channel specifically attacked Fox News for crowning Biden president-elect on November 7.
It worked. Back in September of 2020, Newsmax drew just 100,000 viewers a day. Following the election, and while championing Trump’s undemocratic claims of a "stolen" election, Newsmax's audience ballooned to nearly a million viewers. Soon after Joe Biden was declared president-elect, Sean Hannity's 9 p.m. program slid into a last-place position behind MSNBC and CNN, among viewers 25-54.
Murdoch caught a glimpse of Fox News’ future if viewers left in favor of more fringe and even more reckless outlets. His solution? Become more fringe, even more reckless, and use a global health crisis to accomplish that. (Fox soon handed over its 7 p.m. “news” block to a chronic liar, Jesse Watters.)
Today, the billionaire’s media empire inflicts a special kind of pain on the U.S. It’s true his right-wing outlets around the world have been awful on Covid, but it simply doesn’t compare with the war Fox News has unleashed here. For instance, when Australia’s Murdoch-approved Prime Minster Scott Morrison recently said the government would no longer provide free rapid antigen test kits, several Murdoch pundits unloaded on him, denouncing the move as being mean-spirited and “out of touch” with everyday Australians who deserve free and fast testing in order to control the spread of the virus. When Morrison reversed course, Murdoch newspapers mocked his “backflip.”
Also, Murdoch’s News Corp. made headlines last summer when it cancelled a longtime right-wing commentator in Australia. The move was widely seen as punishment for the pundit’s Covid lies. That’s because in Australia, Murdoch’s company operates under different rules and is willing to stand up for common sense when it comes to not pushing obvious Covid-19 lies.
In the States, we have an entire Murdoch network that’s not only encouraging millions of viewers not to get vaccinated, but claims the inoculation might kill them, the government cannot be trusted, and the vaccine poses a danger to pregnant women.
Too cowardly to pull back his top-rated U.S. hosts, Murdoch refuses to protect American news consumers from Fox News’ cult-like disinformation regarding a miraculously safe and effective vaccine.
That’s a huge reason why the U.S. vaccination rate has stalled so far behind other industrialized nations — the Biden White House is facing a cynical and powerful anti-vax movement that’s unlike anything else in the world. We are the only country that’s simultaneously trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic while battling a homegrown, deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going for partisan reasons.
The U.S. has become a global leader in pandemic lies, and that’s because of Murdoch, who rushed to get vaccinated one year ago. All that while the network churns out lies about the pandemic and it couldn’t care less that nearly one million Americans, including a huge block of Fox viewers, have perished.
Fox’s ratings are up and Biden’s approvals are down — that’s all Murdoch cares about.