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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: pandemic deaths

How Many Americans Has Rupert Murdoch Killed During The Pandemic?

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.

Lethal Lie: Distorting Data, Republicans Insist Covid Only Kills Very Sick

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans have settled on a position that seems just a smidge incredible: There is no pandemic. Downplaying the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease that it generates has been standard Republican operating procedure since Donald Trump insisted that cases would soon be “down to zero” and that COVID-19 would go away “like magic.” But at this point, with 860,000 dead Americans and over 5.5 million lives lost around the world, in the midst of a wave of disease sending record numbers to hospitals, pandemic denial seems like something that should be impossible.

It’s not. Republicans have returned to the idea that people are just, you know, dying. And that COVID-19 has nothing to do with it.

It’s another trip through irresponsibility, delusion, and jackassery that started with a badly edited interview, passed through a now deleted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweet, and spawned a million gloating I-told-you-so claims on Facebook. Since then other Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have doubled down on the claim, and the Republican National Committee (RNC) is proceeding at warp nine into conspiracy space.

Like so many of the claims during the last five years, this one started from a misunderstanding, then pivoted to a deliberate lie. It can be fully expected to become the accepted “truth” for Republicans moving forward. Here’s the three-step process into how “not from COVID-19, but with COVID-19” became the new Republican baseline.

Step 1: ABC makes a criminally bad edit of an already bad interview

To say that Rochelle Walensky’s brief term as director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been marked by poor communication is something of an understatement. Communicating with dolphins is only slightly less frustrating.

It’s not so much that the CDC has been wrong, but under Walensky the agency has issued unnecessary guidance that includes caveats and details almost certain to be steamrolled into a mush of confusion. For example, the idea that people who were asymptomatic but who tested positive for COVID-19 could cease self-isolation after five days if they continued to wear a mask. This was predictably turned into “CDC cuts COVID-19 quarantine to five days” by the media within 30 seconds of its issuance.

But perhaps no single statement has done more damage the CDC’s reputation than an interview on ABC News. In that interview, Walensky was asked about the results of a new study showing that vaccines were very effective in preventing severe illness. Here’s her response as it appeared on ABC News.

Walensky: “The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who are unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of omicron. This means not just to get your primary series, but to get your booster, and yes, we’re really encouraged by these results.”

There were any number of reasons to be upset by this statement. For one thing, Walensky appears to be not just brushing off people with long-term illness or conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, but actually gloating about how deaths are restricted to people who were “unwell to begin with.” Disability advocates—and a lot of people who suffer from issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure—were justifiably outraged.

However, it turns out that ABC made an absolutely egregious edit. This was Walensky’s actual reply to the question about the study.

Walensky: “You know, really important study, if I may just summarize it. A study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December and October, and demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about 0.015 percent of the people who received their primary series. And death in 0.003 percent of those people. The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who are unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of omicron. This means not just to get your primary series, but to get your booster, and yes, we’re really encouraged by these results.”

All of that went on the cutting room floor at ABC. Clearly, what Walensky was actually addressing was the results of a single study, a study that showed just how tremendously effective the vaccines really are.

However, the complaints of disability advocates remain absolutely valid, because there was no reason for Walensky to characterize the extremely low number of deaths found in this study in the way she did. It added no value to her response. In fact, by answering in this way, Walensky greatly undercut the point that she was trying to make. That point was not “only sick people died” but “vaccines are tremendously effective.” Walensky’s response remains a masterclass in awful.

But ABC’s editing made everything 1,000 times worse, and queued up exactly what came next.

Step 2: Context gets shredded by the RNC

Those watching the ABC interview might still have picked up on the fact that Walensky’s statement, no matter how mangled, was characterizing only vaccinated individuals in one study. But when those words hit social media, context went out the window. As far as the Internet was concerned, this was the beginning and the end of what Walensky had to say.

Granted, that kind of sentence or even phrase-level cherry-picking has been standard RNC practice for years, but ABC really helped them out by dropping all context from Walensky’s reply. As a result, social media soon flooded with Republicans claiming that 75 percent of all the people who have died from COVID-19 have been people who were very unwell to begin with. That prompted, including other things, this now-deleted Cruz tweet.

Now deleted Ted Cruz tweet claiming that most people who died from COVID, didn

Step 3: Double-down and carry on

Cruz may have backed away from that tweet after the editing fingers of both the RNC and ABC were made clear, but don’t expect him to stay backed up. Since that initial post, the RNC has doubled down. And tripled down. In their latest tweet, they’re back to the language that Republicans used in the opening days of the pandemic as deaths began to pile up across the country. People didn’t die from COVID-19, says the RNC. They’re just sick people who happened to die with COVID-19.

Rubio then took this to the next logical step with a claim that the thousands of people being hospitalized during the Omicron spike aren’t being hospitalized because of COVID-19.

Except that as the article makes clear, there are 145,982 people hospitalized in U.S. from COVID-19. Not from “reasons unrelated to COVID.” There’s absolutely nothing in the article cited, or in any other source, to back up Rubio’s statement.

It doesn’t matter, because the Republican Party has only one reaction to being found wrong on any point: tactical extremism. Rather than admit the claims about people dying from COVID-19 are the results of a series of bad, out of context edits, expect Republicans to harden on this position as a baseline. Expect renewed claims that the CDC is greatly exaggerating the threat of COVID-19, as well as more of those videos where people invade their local hospital to “prove” that there’s no wave of COVID-19 patients.

Expect more resistance to vaccination. Expect more denial of reason. Expect more deaths.

All brought to you by the modern Republican Party, the best friend a virus ever had.