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Tag: rupert murdoch

Does Rupert Murdoch Have The Guts To Take Down Trump?

If the stunning midterm results bear any message for Republicans, it is that Donald Trump continues to poison their party’s prospects, as he has done in every election since his fluke Electoral College squeaker six years ago. Nobody sees Trump more clearly now than Rupert Murdoch, the party’s would-be kingmaker, whose media empire trained its artillery on him after the election fiasco.

In classic New York Post style, Murdoch’s flagship tabloid lampooned its former object of affection on page one as “Trumpty Dumpty,” with a suitably humiliating illustration and accompanying columns that blamed him for the midterm failure and urged him to forget about running for president again. On the same day, Murdoch’s upscale Wall Street Journal editorial page whacked Trump as the midterm’s “biggest loser,” pinning on him the GOP defeats in 2018, 2020, 2021, and now 2022-- and suggesting that maybe, finally, Republicans are “sick and tired of losing.”

Meanwhile, on Fox News Channel, the Murdoch network that once served as state TV for the Trump campaign and White House, the post-election commentary was so shocking to Trump—man bites dog--that he snapped back on his Truth Social platform. “For me, Fox News was always gone, even in 2015-16 when I began my journey,” he complained with typical dishonesty. “But now they’re really gone.”

As Erik Wemple noted in the Washington Post, we’ve watched this melodrama unfold more than once already, most recently last summer after the House Select Committee’s devastating hearings, when the Post and the Journal both denounced Trump’s incitement of the January 6 insurrection. The media mogul has never liked Trump, whom he regards as an intellectual inferior and a business fraud. But the problem, as Murdoch has learned, is that Trump’s mass cult following can affect Fox’s ratings by turning to its competitor Newsmax.

Despite his current apparent enthusiasm for flavor-of-the-month Ron DeSantis, Murdoch and his minions will of course crawl back if the Florida governor’s scant appeal fizzles away. But what would Rupert do if he had the testicular fortitude to rid the Republican Party of that meddlesome mountebank Trump?

If Rupert at all means what his publications now say, he must direct their fire as he does whenever he pursues a political vendetta. Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, among many others, know exactly how that goes.

If Murdoch is serious and not just striking a frivolous pose, the test for him is clear. To put the stake in Trump, Murdoch must at once instruct his editors and producers, his writers and TV personalities, to desist from undermining the myriad investigations into the former president’s alleged crimes – and instead lend support to those probes and publicize their ruinous revelations.

In his past feuds with political figures, the News Corp boss (and those who do his bidding) have never hesitated to fabricate or fib. This time, however, there is no need for his trademark journalistic malpractice. The Murdoch media could do something completely new and different -- real journalism that accurately reports the current federal and state investigations of Trump and his associates, and editorially encourages prosecution to uphold the rule of law.

Murdoch is mean and reactionary, but he isn’t stupid. He is well aware that the Trump Organization has acted fraudulently for decades, as shown in the evidence compiled by New York Attorney General Letitia James. He has heard Trump’s taped conversation with Brad Raffensperger, attempting to bully the Georgia secretary of state into fixing the 2020 election for him by “finding 11,780 votes.” Murdoch understands the wider conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, not least because individuals on Fox News were privy to the coup as it unfolded. He has seen the FBI photos of top-secret documents that Trump stole from the White House and took to Mar-a-Lago.

Knowing all that, the old press lord must dictate a course correction to his corps of obedient lackeys and get on board with the investigations. He would find himself in familiar company, from hardcore conservative Rep. Liz Cheney to Bill Kristol, the Never Trump neoconservative who edited the Weekly Standard magazine when Murdoch owned it.

Chances that this will actually happen are vanishingly small. But unless he backs the investigations that could haul Trump and his gang before the bar of justice, Murdoch’s current criticism will be exposed as cheap talk and nothing more.

Murdoch has now set the test for himself. Will he back down as he did after blasting Trump over the January 6 insurrection? Will he again prove to be a blowhard and a weakling? The whole world is watching, Rupert.

Spanked By Murdoch's Tabloid, Trump Erupts In 'Truth' Tantrum

On Tuesday the United States discovered that when more Americans come out to vote, the MAGA world and its surrogate Republican Party are really unpopular. One of the grand delusions in the traditional media is that Donald Trump, a man who never received the popular vote in the history of ever, was somehow popular. It’s a relative term, of course. Donald Trump is popular with the MAGA crowd that believes they will ascend into heaven on his back. Donald Trump is less unpopular than many of his fellow conservative leaders within his own party. But he isn’t really popular. A large part of this is because Donald Trump is a terrible person, and most people can see that.

The Republican Party and its operatives are scrambling to see who can wrestle for control over the internally warring political party. Tuesday night’s results showed that Americans, by and large, are not interested in Big Lie promoters and relitigating the 2020 election. This has opened a sliver of light to GOP operatives who hope they can wriggle free of Trump before 2024. To that end, the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post released a very disparaging front-page story Thursday morning pointing the finger at Trump. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board released an opinion piece with the headline, “Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.”

We all know how thin-skinned the disgraced former guy is. Will he have a meltd—

Yes he will!

On Truth Social, Donald Trump pressed his thumbs together and began a rant the likes of which we have all experienced before. I will be putting it in here, typos and all.

“Now that the Election in Florida is over, and everything went quite well, shouldn't it be said that in 2020, I got 1.1 million more votes in Florida than Ron D got this year, 5.7 million to 4.6 million? Just asking?”

That was early on for The Donald. Not so bad, maybe this won’t be a bi—

“Incredible how dishonest the Fake News Media is. The failing New York Times has gone crazy. So many of the people I Endorsed went onto victory on Tuesday Night, nobody was even close, and they literally make up a story refusing to write the facts, and only quoting enemies and losers. Almost all of the people I endorsed WON, yet if you read the story from two Trump hating writers (who only do as they are told!), you would not even recognize the truth. They truly are, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!!!”

Yes. That got turned up fast. Hopefully things are cooling down over at MAGA headquar—

“… 219 WINS against 16 LOSSES IN THE GENERAL ELECTION, and yet, the Fake News writes only unrecognizable junk. No wonder they are all doing sooo badly!”

Okaaaay.

“There is a Fake Story being promulgated by third rate reporter, Maggie Hagaman of the Failing New York Times, that I am blaming our great former, First Lady, Melania, and Sean Hannity, that I was angry with their pushing me to Endorse Dr. Oz. First of all Oz is a wonderful guy who really worked hard, and was a very good candidate, but he WAS LONG IN THE RACE before I ever Endorsed him, they had NOTHING to do with it, he was not a ‘denier’ (his mistake!), and I was not at all ANGRY. Fake News!”

Somebody looked at their Word of the Day calendar! At least he doesn’t sound angry, amiright?

“I'd like to apologize to Melania and Sean Hannity for all of the Fake News and fictional stories (made up out of thin air, with no sources despite them claiming there are!), being dumped on you by reporters and ‘News’ Organizations who know the stories are not true. The Fake News Media is “Crazed” and totally out of control. I only wish the public could understand how really corrupt and crooked they are. They MAKE UP stories and then push them down your throats. Our Country is in big trouble!”

To be honest that doesn’t really sound like much of an apolo—

“… 219 WINS against 16 LOSSES IN THE GENERAL ELECTION, and yet, the Fake News writes only unrecognizable junk. No wonder they are all doing sooo badly!”

You said that already.

“Despite having pick so many winners, I have to put up with the Fake News. For me Fox News was always gone, even in 2015-16 when I began my “journey,” but now they're really gone. Such an opportunity for another media outlet to make an absolute fortune, and do good for America. Let's see what happens?”

Let’s see.

“For those many people that are being fed the fake narrative from the corrupt media, that I am Angry about the Midterms, don't believe it. I am not at all angry, did a great job (I wasn't the one running!), and I'm very busy looking into the future. Remember, I am a “Stable Genius.”

Sort of like seeing a band you never liked do their greatest hits, which you didn’t care for in the first place.

Election Night 2022 was full of surprises—mostly for people pushing the last couple months of traditional media narrative of a "red tsunami." The problem is that Americans are not super into the GOP. Markos and Kerry have been saying the media narrative was wrong for months, and on Tuesday, Daily Kos and The Brief team was validated. Time to celebrate!

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Dominion Judge Raps Murdochs' 'Reckless Disregard For Truth'

A judge ruling in favor of a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit moving forward signals the possibility of looming financial woes for Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. According to The Guardian, Delaware Supreme Court Judge Eric David in June ruled that Dominion Voting Systems could proceed with its defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation.

The lawsuit is a legal pushback against Fox News' reporting and perpetuation of voter fraud and election misinformation following the 2020 presidential election.

Per The Guardian, David determined "that it was a reasonable inference that Murdoch and son Lachlan either knew outright that Dominion had not manipulated the election or 'recklessly disregarded the truth' when Fox disseminated lies initially launched by Donald Trump."

Speaking to The Guardian, a number of legal experts have offered their perspective on the case and why it suggests trouble ahead of Fox News. Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a Stetson University constitutional law professor and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, weighed in on Dominion's case as she noted that the voting technology company appears to have a substantial argument.

“Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News,” Torres-Spelliscy said to the news outlet, adding that "all of the 'conspiracy theories about Dominion’s machines were just pure bunk,'" She also noted that "Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of [Trump’s] ‘big lie’ a megaphone.”

“I think once you start to pull the discovery material, what you’re going to find is there was a lot of communication between the Trump people both internally and externally about pushing very specific lies and narratives,” said Media Matters for America chief executive, Angelo Carusone.

However, Fox News is confident that it will survive this legal battle.

A Fox spokesman told also released a brief statement to the news outlet on behalf of the network. “We are confident we will prevail in this case, as the First Amendment is the foundation of our democracy and freedom of the press must be protected,” the spokesman said.

In addition to the lawsuit against Fox News, Dominion also has a $1.6 billion lawsuit against conservative news networks One America News Network (OAN) and Newsmax.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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.

The Impeccable Timing Of Chris Wallace's Departure

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Forget about the homeless man who burned down Fox News’ metal Christmas tree last week. The network’s real troubles began December 13, when longtime host Chris Wallace announced his resignation on live TV, in order to jump to rival CNN. The network’s woes then exploded into full view Monday night when it was revealed a laundry list of Fox News hosts anxiously texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, on January 6, begging Trump to stop the deadly mob that was laying siege to the U.S. Capitol.

“Please get him on TV,” the network’s Brian Kilmeade messaged. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.” Pleaded Laura Ingraham: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” And from Sean Hannity, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”

For hours, Trump did nothing to stop the insurrection, before eventually issuing a bland, irrelevant statement on that very dark day.

The Sunday news flash about Wallace was a punch in the gut for Fox, mostly because it robs the network of its ability to point to the morning host as supposedly a ‘serious journalist’ when trying to knock down the obvious claim that the network is nothing more than a bigoted propaganda outlet.

“The abrupt departure of Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace stripped the network of its foremost fig leaf, and gave reality-based journalists clear license to stop the lame euphemisms and call Fox what it is: a propaganda and disinformation operation,” wrote media critic Dan Froomkin.

The second, more serious newsflash about the text messages ripped away the Fox veneer that’s been constructed since January 6, that the insurrection was no big deal (i.e. a bunch of grandparents marching around with placards), and that any investigation today represents a partisan witch hunt. Just last week, Kilmeade, who was privately beseeching for action on January 6, mocked news outlets for spending too much time reporting on the revelations that keep tumbling out about Trump’s coup attempt last winter, and about the widespread obstruction of justice on display.

Since everyone at Fox News operates without a moral compass, none of the millionaire hosts will have trouble sleeping despite their insurrection hypocrisy making headlines this week. Still, the network privately hates episodes like this, because it puts them on the defensive and it chips away at the preferred fantasy they push on Madison Avenue and within the Beltway that Fox is merely a conservative media outlet and that it actually employs a “news” division.

It was an awful 36 hours for Fox, and Wallace definitely picked a prime time to leave. I wonder if he knew the release of the Insurrection Day texts from his colleagues was imminent, and if that sped up what appeared to be his hasty exit from his TV home for 18 years. Either way, his move was a stinger for the network, for lots of reasons.

The exit, and how it was choreographed, came with an unmistakable scent of F.U. directed to Wallace’s former bosses. According to reports, virtually nobody inside Fox’s Washington D.C. bureau knew about the departure before Wallace announced it live on television. Worse, he’s jumping straight to Fox News’ most hated rival — CNN. That’s a poke in the eye for the right-wing network, which hates the fact that CNN doggedly details Fox’s dishonest ways. It’s unheard of for a high-profile Fox player like Wallace to pack their bags and head directly to CNN.

When Rupert Morduch’s network on Sunday released a perfunctory statement about Wallace, it was clear the two did not leave on good terms, which is rather stunning considering he’s been among their most recognizable faces for nearly two decades.

That personnel headache was soon superseded by the insurrection controversy, when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the vice chair of the House select committee investigating January 6, read the Fox News texts aloud Monday night during a primetime hearing. Of course Fox News stonewalled the insurrection text news for 24 hours, refusing to acknowledge that its horrified hosts desperately communicated with Trump’s top aide in real time on January 6, trying to get the president to stop the deranged coup attempt.

They ignored the blockbuster news because Fox employees today are paid to whitewash the insurrection. Last summer, Ingraham openly mocked Capitol Police officers who testified before Congress about the chaos and trauma of Insurrection Day, when law enforcement was attacked and many thought they would die.

And just last month, “Fox News host Tucker Carlson produced a documentary, “Patriot Purge,” for the Fox Nation streaming platform that included the baseless claim that the deadly attack was a “false flag” operation intended to demonize conservatives,” Huff Post notes. Carlson infamously told viewers in September that the Capitol rioters “don’t look like terrorists. They look like tourists.”

The lingering, pungent stench from episodes like this might be why Wallace walked away this week. His timing was impeccable

Why Do Republicans Keep Killing Their Own?

As the omicron variant threatens to inflict yet more suffering and death, it is maddening to realize how easily this next wave of the coronavirus could have been avoided or certainly mitigated if only more Americans had been fully vaccinated. And confronting that terribly obvious truth raises the most enduring enigma of the pandemic: the campaign by right-wing Republican leaders, in both politics and media, to herd their sheeplike followers into a suicidal rejection of vaccines.

The anti-vaccine campaign, a paranoid mindset once relegated to the kook fringes of American life, has been adopted in whole or in part by the Republican Party along with its media subsidiaries. They have taken that campaign well beyond any libertarian objection to coercive government, publicizing fake statistics to exaggerate the very minor perils of vaccination while promoting (and sometimes profiting from) medications that are more likely to kill than cure.

It is a crusade rife with contradictions at every level. As president, Donald Trump was responsible for financing the "Operation Warp Speed" effort to bring forth vaccines as rapidly as possible and could even claim some credit for its success. As soon as they became available, prominent conservatives such as Rupert Murdoch, the superannuated Fox News boss, went abroad to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Murdoch soon ordered all of his employees to either get vaccinated or submit to daily COVID-19 testing, despite the anti-vax propaganda constantly emanating from his network.

The weird hypocrisy of the inoculated vaccination opponents even enveloped anti-vaccine publicist Robert Kennedy Jr., when the invitation to a Christmas party at his home urged those planning to attend to get vaccinated. While he keeps fabricating scary statistics about mortality among the vaccinated, Kennedy himself refuses to disclose his own vaccination status, as if this is a matter of principle. So do his pal Tucker Carlson and many of Carlson's Fox colleagues.

It is reasonable to assume that all of these misleaders are, in fact, fully vaccinated and boosted, like any other moderately intelligent person. So why are they encouraging their followers to reject vaccination and risk death?

The bloody consequences of their demagoguery are starkly illustrated in real statistics as well as charts and graphs. Invariably displayed in shades of red and blue are the data showing that Republicans are succumbing to coronavirus at far higher rates than Democrats. Analysts can select any variety of geographic or political criteria to measure the rates of infection and death, but the answer is always essentially the same.

Today, according to the invaluable health analyst Charles Gaba, the rate of new infections in the most Republican areas of the country is nearly three times higher than in the most Democratic areas. The death rate in those reddest counties is nearly six times higher than in the bluest counties. Those same numbers can be plotted along lines of vaccinated versus unvaccinated, and of course they match almost perfectly.

Which again raises the unanswered question of why the Republicans have so eagerly adopted the anti-vaccine ideology once confined to a sideshow of barking crazies and grifters. Why are they fighting to ban vaccine mandates — even for health care and nursing home workers? Why are they promising to protect and even reward workers who refuse vaccination? Why are they forcing schools to abandon masking, vaccination, and other protective measures?

Why, as we surpass the morbid milestone of 800,000 dead, are they doing everything in their power to ensure that we will have to bury many more? The most plausible answer is so disturbing and so criminal that it is hard to believe, even hard to articulate.

But given the circumstances, it is equally hard to imagine any alternative explanation -- keeping in mind that the principal advocates of this insanity are themselves fully vaccinated.

Maybe the Republicans are seeking to keep death rates high in the hope that voters will blame President Joe Biden, who promised to stem the pandemic when he ran for president. Maybe they don't mind sacrificing their own sheeplike followers. They are betting that enough Americans will stupidly avoid vaccination, and more than enough will ignore the real causes and effects of that stupidity.

Right now they are winning that bet — and our country is losing.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

New Poll Reveals Deadly Impact Of Fox’s Pandemic Disinformation

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new poll out this week, also reported on by The Washington Post, showing the alarming extent to which COVID-19 misinformation has penetrated among American adults, but particularly Republicans and people who consume right-wing media. The really scary thing: A lot of people actually believe the things they see on Fox News and further right networks like Newsmax.

The poll found that Republicans' No. 1 most trusted source for information is Fox News. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between trusting Fox News and believing one or more pieces of COVID-19 misinformation, with 36% of people who trust Fox believing or being unsure about four or more pieces of COVID-19 misinformation.

And while Kaiser made clear that it could not "disentangle" the complex issue of whether these news sources are causing their viewers to believe misinformation — or if instead people who are predisposed to such misinformation are flocking to Fox News and other right-wing media outlets — that kind of chicken-or-the-egg question does not simply acquit Fox from its responsibility for encouraging these apparently widespread misconceptions among its viewers.

Even if this is a vicious feedback loop between media outlets that push misinformation and an audience eager to hear it, Fox is still choosing to be part of the problem rather than the solution. The network is enthusiastically spreading misinformation — and looking to make a buck from it, since according to Fox insiders, the COVID-19 lies have been "great for ratings."

Fox News Under Trump Played Down COVID-19 Deaths

The poll found that a whopping 84 percent of Republicans either believe or are unsure about whether the government has exaggerated the number of COVID-19 deaths. By contrast, researchers have said throughout the pandemic that the numbers are likely undercounted. But there is a reason so many Republican voters believe this: Right-wing media, especially Fox News, mounted a full-scale push to spread doubt about the COVID-19 death count during the first year of the pandemic— that is, while former President Donald Trump was in office.

Very early on during the pandemic, Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed in April 2020 that "we're going to get a very large number of deaths" attributed to COVID-19, but which he said would not be an "accurate count" due to co-morbidities. Fox host Tucker Carlson replied, "There may be reasons that people seek an inaccurate death count, but we can address that later." At that point, the official death toll in the United States was only 13,000, but Fox news anchor Harris Faulkner also argued even that was too high a count: "How many of those people had other health risks at play, though? And maybe it wasn't, in fact, COVID-19 that caused their death."

As the death count kept climbing, network figures pushed a full propaganda campaign arguing that the numbers were too high, and siding with the Trump White House in "pushing back" against the official reports. Polling then showed that Fox viewers believed the conspiracy theory about supposedly inflated death tolls, even as public health experts argued that the official numbers were actually too low. By December 2020, Fox host Laura Ingraham argued that "the virus is a lot less lethal than previously thought," even as the official death count reached 300,000.

Fox News Under Biden Imagined Mass Vaccine Deaths

The poll also found that 28 percent of Republicans believe the government is hiding vaccine-related deaths — while another 16 percent have heard this claim but are unsure about it, and only 8% know it is false. And here, too, Fox News has done its part to spread the lie.

While Carlson and other Fox hosts set out to claim that COVID-19 deaths were being overcounted in 2020, they have set out to paint a frightening picture of the vaccines in 2021. Carlson claimed in May that nearly 4,000 people had died from the vaccine, and that "the actual number is almost certainly higher than that — perhaps vastly higher than that." Those claims had circulated online for months before Carlson picked them up, and the online chatter has only picked up since then.

The claims are based on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a government-run public database where individuals can self-report side effects or other incidents following a vaccination. The problem, however, is that the information in VAERS is unvetted and does not always differentiate negative health events from their normal frequency in the population — or even confirm whether they happened at all. As Meredith Wadman of Science notes, "One of VAERS's strengths — its openness — is also a potential weakness in the politicized COVID-19 era."

Earlier this year, for example, a VAERS report that a two-year-old allegedly died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during clinical trials was later removed from the system for being "completely made up" — in fact, vaccine testing for children that young had not even begun at the time of the report.

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch stood by Carlson's escalating series of claims. "He basically just went into the CDC data, right?" Murdoch said. "So there's nothing the CDC itself isn't saying." (In fact, a disclaimer on the VAERS site actually makes clear: "The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.")

By now, Carlson's show and other Fox programming have used these claims in order to argue that the vaccine is deadlier than COVID-19 itself. Fox News could not possibly believe all of this at the company level, though — despite Lachlan Murdoch's public support for Carlson — because the company also practices a strict vaccination and testing mandate at its company offices, as well as at its upcoming corporate shareholder meeting.

Republicans Seek The Easy Drug — But Not Vaccines — With Fox's Help

The poll also found that 28 percent of Republicans believe that the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19, while another 17 perecent were familiar with the claim but unsure of its validity, and only six percent know it is false. Fox News has promoted ivermectin for about a year, in something of a sequel to the network's earlier promotion of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Going by the same playbook, Fox hosts have denounced the "medical establishment" for purportedly lying about the drug because it is a "threat" to the adoption of the vaccines; claimed that researchers "will never develop a drug that is more effective than ivermectin"; and that it is a "miracle drug" with "little to no side effects."

Following a warning in August from the Food and Drug Administration, which highlighted the drug's "highly dangerous" side effects if taken to excess or in combination with other medications, the network has continued to advocate for the drug. One Fox guest imagined the rest of the media thinking, "If we could have just maybe stopped some people from taking ivermectin, maybe we can get more people to take the vaccine."

What this really did, though, was expose via psychological projection the entire right-wing influence operation to keep pushing any possible drug except the vaccines on their audiences.