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

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Tucker Carlson’s Big Vaccine Lie Could Kill Thousands

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

On May 5, Fox News and Tucker Carlson added another entry to their laundry list of reckless and incendiary claims regarding COVID-19: "Official government data" indicates dozens of people a day are dying after receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.


Carlson inaccurately asserted that thousands of people have died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, claiming that "between late December of 2020 and last month, a total of 3,362 people apparently died after getting the COVID vaccine in the United States" and that even though the data was "not quite up to date," we "can assume that another 360 people at that rate have died in the 12 days since. You put it all together, and that is a total of 3,722 deaths. That's almost 4,000 people who died after getting the COVID vaccines. The actual number is almost certainly higher than that, perhaps vastly higher than that."

His monologue continued and included claims from an unnamed physician that we're currently living through the "single deadliest mass vaccination event in modern history":

In just the first four months of this year, the U.S. government has recorded more deaths after COVID vaccinations than from all other vaccines administered in the United States between mid-1997 and the end of 2013. That is a period of 15 and a half years. Again, more people, according to VAERS, have died after getting the shot in four months during a single vaccination campaign than from all other vaccines combined over more than a decade and a half. Chart that out. It's a stunning picture. Now, the debate is over what it means. Again, there is a lot of criticism of the reporting system. Some people say, well, it's just a coincidence if someone gets a shot and then dies, possibly from other causes. No one really knows, is the truth. We spoke to one physician today who actively treats COVID patients. He described what we are seeing now as the single deadliest mass vaccination event in modern history. Whatever is causing it, it is happening as we speak.

The sensational claims Carlson is parroting regarding a mass of unaddressed potentially COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths have been circulating online and on social media for months, and they are based on deeply unreliable data from the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS allows the public open access to report incidents of adverse reactions to vaccinations. As PolitiFact explained:

It's designed so that anyone — parents, patients and health care professionals — can freely report any health effects that occur after a vaccination, according to the CDC, whether or not those effects are believed to be caused by the vaccine. The reports are not verified before they're entered into the database. But anyone with a computer can search the data, download it, sort through the numbers and interpret them as they wish.
That makes VAERS fertile ground for vaccine misinformation that spreads widely on social media and elsewhere. Even though VAERS warns its users that reports should not be used on their own to determine whether a vaccine caused or contributed to a particular illness, many who tap into the system do that anyway, citing these government statistics to justify broader conclusions about what they consider the dangers of vaccines.

What Carlson brushed off as "criticism of the reporting system" actually relates to fundamental methodological decisions that are key to understanding what VAERS data actually measures, and they completely undercut Carlson's argument.

As radiologist Pradheep J. Shanker (incidentally, a contributor to the right-wing National Review) explained in a lengthy tweet thread, VAERS is intended to serve as a "catch all" system that allows for minor complications to be identified while also dealing with a significant amount of statistical "noise." VAERS' own data guide states that "a report to VAERS," including reports of death, "generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report."

A longer disclaimer on the VAERS website explicitly states that the data relies on self-reporting and should not be regarded as complete or authoritative: "While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind."

VAERS screenshot disclaimer

VAERS disclaimer

VAERS requires people interested in exploring the dataset to acknowledge two separate disclaimers explaining the limitations of the data. When a person downloads VAERS data, they receive yet another disclaimer, stating that "the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality."

VAERS disclaimer warning

VAERS disclaimer warning

VAERS download disclaimer

In this instance, either Fox News, Carlson, and his team failed to even attempt to verify the numbers they were presenting viewers, or they knew of the VAERS methodological shortcomings, which users are required to acknowledge twice, and chose to brush them off in favor of a monologue designed to terrify their audience. And despite these clear limitations, Carlson repeated arguments, made by vaccine skeptic Toby Rogers no less, that the perceived under-reporting of adverse vaccine reactions to VAERS actually means that we have no way of knowing the true number of incidents, and that they're likely much higher. "Nobody [knows] and we are not going to speculate about it on the show," Carlson declared.

But that data does exist. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention oversees VAERS, it also runs the CDC's Vaccine Safety Datalink, which documents reports of adverse vaccine reactions through health care professionals and requires more rigorous standards of documentation and reporting. Despite Carlson's claims that "you are not allowed to" mention the nearly 4,000 deaths reported to VAERS for fear of being "pulled off the internet" if you do, the CDC itself addresses the reports on its website.

CDC VAERS

The CDC's comments about reports sent to VAERS were notably absent from Fox's broadcast. Carlson's assertion that the government won't "acknowledge" or investigate this alleged avalanche of mass death is even more starkly contradicted by the recent temporary removal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from circulation while the CDC investigated a half-dozen reports of blood clots in recipients.

What's clear is that Carlson has become the network's nexus of vaccine skepticism, spending months denouncing the effort to get the public vaccinated and insinuating that the drugs may not be safe or effective and that scientists who say otherwise are lying.

Fox News has abandoned all pretext of being a news and information channel in favor of unrestrained reactionary politics with Carlson as the centerpiece. Nearly half of Republicans now say they don't want a COVID-19 vaccine, and there is no doubt that Carlson and Fox played a part in creating that number. Advertisers and cable companies supporting Fox are propping up the nation's most prominent vaccine skeptic -- and they bear just as much responsibility for the consequences as the Murdochs and Carlson's enablers at Fox.

Meanwhile, Pfizer, which of course makes one of the COVID-19 vaccines that Carlson is scaremongering about, is currently one of Fox News' leading advertisers-- meaning that the company is essentially subsidizing baseless accusations against its wildly successful product.

Update (5/6/21 10 p.m. EDT): On his show the following evening, Carlson doubled down on his inaccurate segment, without engaging with any of the myriad criticisms that has been aimed at him in the ensuing 24 hours.

Carlson repeated his claim that "more deaths have been connected to the new COVID vaccines over the past four months and to all previous vaccines combined." Carlson again blatantly misinterpreted VAERS data, instead blaming the entire episode on the Biden administration (even as people across the political spectrum try to correct his lies), and finally sarcastically declaring that "anyone who asks" about the potential harms of the vaccine "is immoral."


Carlson blamed "partisans" for widespread criticism of his remarks, backlash comes from people across the political spectrum as well as fact-checkers. Prominent conservative figures, including Carlson's own colleagues, criticized the segment, notably off the air.

Dr. Nicole Saphier, Fox News medical contributor:

Jonah Goldberg, Fox News contributor:

Underestimate That ‘Senile’ Biden Guy At Your Peril

In a Democratic presidential debate in September 2019, Julian Castro thought he heard Joe Biden say something that contradicted himself, and he pounced on the opportunity to suggest that Biden was over the hill. "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?" he demanded. "Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?"

Propelled by this moment of triumph, Castro went on to become a member of the board of directors of a Washington think tank. His humiliated opponent was never heard from again.

As it turned out, it was Castro who was confused about what Biden had said. If the 2020 campaign proved anything, it's that underestimating Biden is dangerous. But Republicans persist in depicting him as a decrepit specimen who is wholly inadequate to his presidential responsibilities.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) expressed concern last month that the president was not doing cable news interviews or tweeting much. "Is he really in charge?" he tweeted. When Biden addressed Congress, Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed to hear "a 78-year-old man losing his grip." Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. wondered if Biden is "a man of diminished capacities" who is "making himself a prop for an agenda that he may not quite grasp."

This sounds eerily like what Biden's detractors said about him during the campaign. First it was from the left, with supporters of Bernie Sanders putting out talking points insisting that Biden was in "obvious cognitive decline." Sen. Cory Booker said, "There are definitely moments where you listen to Joe Biden and you just wonder."

Biden somehow stumbled his way to the nomination, vanquishing a huge field of younger and supposedly sharper rivals (and an older one, Sanders). But that didn't stop Republicans from insisting that he was conducting a mostly virtual campaign — "hiding in the basement" — not because of the pandemic but because he was too addled to appear in public.

Then-President Donald Trump predicted that if Biden should somehow win, "They are going to put him in a home, and other people are going to be running the country." An editorial in The Wall Street Journal warned that Biden might "duck the debates" because "his handlers are trying to protect him from doubts about his cognitive capacity."

But the Democratic nominee apparently was pulled out of his nursing home bed to participate in the debates. He managed keep his composure even in the chaotic first one, when Trump ignored the rules, bullied the moderator and interrupted Biden 73 times.

For a dementia victim, he did amazingly well. In fact, polls indicated that voters thought Biden got the best of Trump in all three faceoffs. He also won the election, over an incumbent president who called him "the worst candidate in the history of politics."

But critics continue harping on this losing theme. In March, Fox News contributor and The Hill columnist Joe Concha demanded to know why Biden hadn't held a press conference or given a speech before Congress. Biden has since done both, and handled both with competence and aplomb.

His foes still imagine that they can make people accept something that is plainly untrue. But Americans prefer to believe what they see with their own eyes. Biden's approval rating is higher than Trump's ever was, and an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday found that 64 percent of Americans are optimistic about the direction of the country.

The portrayal of Biden as disconnected from reality is particularly creative coming from people who shrugged off Trump's fantastical claims, nonstop lies, strange mispronunciations and unhinged rants. They had no problem with a Republican president who spent an outlandish amount of his time watching TV and fulminating on Twitter while neglecting the more important duties of his office.

The image of Biden as helpless is hard to reconcile with the parallel claim that he is ruthlessly transforming America into a woke Marxist dystopia. But conservatives square this circle by theorizing that Vice President Kamala Harris is actually running the show. Their paradoxical accusation: Biden is hiding to conceal the fact that he's not in charge, while Harris is hiding to conceal the fact that she is.

So far, their entire portrayal of this White House has failed to persuade anyone but the dishonest and the gullible. Meanwhile, Biden continues advancing an ambitious Democratic agenda that has broad public support. Sure, he's senile. Senile like a fox.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Attacking Obama Over Vaccine Ad, Carlson Hit With #CreepyTucker Backlash

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When Fox News' Tucker Carlson leveled an attack on former President Barack Obama following his public service announcement about the COVID-19 vaccine, social media users were quick to turn the tables on him.

According to The HuffPost, the former president took to TikTok to encourage his followers to consider taking the COVID vaccine. In response to Obama's PSA, Carlson attempted to spread doubt about the COVID vaccine as he has done on multiple previous occasions. He also described Obama as "creepy" for releasing the video to encourage younger Americans to consider getting vaccinated.

In the quick TikTok video, Obama said, "The vaccine is safe, it's effective, it's free. It's the only way we're going to get back to all the things we love from safely spending time with grandparents to going to concerts and watching live sports."

@yahoonews

Obama to the youth in new PSA: Get your COVID-19 vaccine. #news #politics #obama #covid19 #vaccine #psa #health #covidvaccine #yahoonews

During his primetime broadcast on Monday evening, Carlson attempted to stoke fears about Obama's announcement. "Some creepy old guy telling your children, your little kids to take medicine whose effects we do not fully understand," Carlson said. It's totally normal, yeah, that happens every day. Don't ask questions, just do it."

Some Twitter users noted that there is only a 8-year age gap between Carlson and Obama.

However, Carlson did not stop there. He went on to stoke more fears about authorities being able to "control" intimate healthcare decisions.

"What next? And anything is the answer to that question. If the authorities are permitted to control a health care decision this intimate, if they can force you and your children to take a vaccine you don't want and are afraid of, then what can't they do? Nothing. They will have total power over your body and your mind forever. What's the limit to their power? There isn't one."

It didn't take long for social media users to fire back in Obama's defense. Shortly after Carlson's show aired, the hashtag #CreepyTucker began circulating on Twitter as users criticized him for the destructive rhetoric he spews.

"#CreepyTucker needs to be held accountable for the death and destruction he promotes," one Twitter user wrote.

#EndorseThis: Joy Reid Torches Tucker Carlson After 'Race Lady' Insults

Fox News' leading white nationalist Tucker Carlson should add MSNBC's Joy Reid to the long list of people he shouldn't mess with, after The ReidOut host obliterated him for his “race lady" remarks about her.

“Oh, honey, honey. Tuckums. Is this really about me fixating on race -- or is it about you fixating on race?" Reid asked.

She then proceeds briskly to dismantle “lil Tucker" while reviewing his “many failures."

It's a hoot. See for yourself!

Watch Joy Reid's Mini-Biography On Tucker Carlson's Many Failures | MSNBC youtu.be