Fox News host Sean Hannity received a round from applause Tuesday for the comments he made Monday night urging his viewers to “please take Covid seriously” and telling them, “I believe in the science of vaccination” – remarks apparently contrasting with the type of skepticism towards vaccines that Fox has been treating for months now.
An excerpt from Hannity’s comments has been viewed over 5.4 million times on Twitter as of this writing, and has been described as the “night monologue»Par Politico.
Some observers have interpreted this clip and more from Monday of Fox News figures endorsing Covid-19 vaccines as proof a change of tone is currently on the United States’ most watched cable news network. But make no mistake – Fox’s Covid-19 coverage is still a mess.
SEAN HANNITY: “Please take Covid seriously. I cannot say it enough. Enough people have died. We don’t need death anymore. Research like crazy. Talk to your doctor… I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccination. pic.twitter.com/tOi5ebpqSf
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 20, 2021
Consider, for example, that Hannity’s viral clip talking about vaccines came just before he swivels to a story about a varsity athlete who was temporarily paralyzed after taking another type of vaccine in 2019 – the subtext being that inoculations are more dangerous than experts would have you believe and warrants are misguided . (Hannity once tried to discredit Covid-19 vaccines by saying things like ‘the great Dr Fauci got it wrong so many times’ and proclaiming that he ‘was starting to have doubts’ about getting the vaccine. )
Or consider, as Matt Gertz detailed for Media Matters, that Hannity’s comments were sandwiched between shows anchored by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham who both pushed misinformation about vaccines:
On Monday, Carlson relaunched his lie about a government database allegedly showing thousands of vaccine deaths and urged viewers to ignore reporters who promote vaccination because they want to “force you to comply” , on on-screen graphics that read “MANY VACCINATED PEOPLE ARE HOSPITALIZED” and “OUR LEADERS WANT WE TO GET THE FARM AND DON’T ASK ANY QUESTIONS.” Ingraham’s show also highlighted reasons for questioning “the effectiveness of the vaccine itself in adults.”
It’s true that Hannity wasn’t the only Fox News personality to speak out on behalf of vaccines on Monday. While Hannity has stopped explicitly asking his viewers to get vaccinated, Fox and his friends Co-host Steve Doocy took it a step further and said, “If you get the chance, shoot yourself. It will save your life. “
But Doocy was undermined by Fox and his friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, who asserted in response that it is not the government’s job to “protect anyone” and said of those who choose not to be vaccinated, “if you have the feel like it’s not something for you, don’t do it, but don’t affect my life. (A person’s choice not to get the vaccine actually affects other people by making it more possible for more deadly mutations to develop in the virus.)
Doocy: 99% of people who die are not vaccinated
Kilmeade: It’s their choice!
Doocy: They don’t want to die. Administrator, government say mask warrants are to protect the unvaccinated
Kilmeade: It’s not their job, it’s not their job to protect anyone! pic.twitter.com/NsP2IcMnCX
– Lis Power (@LisPower1) July 19, 2021
Later Monday, Kilmeade hosted an hour-long show in which he said things like, ‘Why does it matter how many Covid cases we have in this country? And, “Since when have we relied on the President of the United States for health care advice?” Let me answer, we don’t.
So while Doocy was praised by The Washington Post for his comments encouraging people to get vaccinated, Kilmeade’s skepticism of vaccines was actually a bigger topic in the network’s programming on Monday.
This kind of inconsistency is a feature of Fox News, not a bug.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Vox on guidance, if any, provided to hosts on how to talk about Covid-19 and Covid-19 vaccines on their shows. (The disease continues to kill an average of 268 Americans a day this week, and if May trends hold, over 99% of these people are probably not vaccinated.)
But inconsistency has been the hallmark of network coverage from the start.
For example, in March of last year, I wrote about how Hannity insisted that he had “never called the virus a hoax” just nine days after decrying it as “this new hoax “that Democrats were using to” bludgeon Trump. “
HANNITY, March 9: “People are scared – I see it, again, like, bludgeon Trump with this new hoax. “
HANNITY, March 18: “By the way, this program has always taken the coronavirus seriously. We have never called the virus a hoax. ” pic.twitter.com/yLKpojA7BI
-Aaron Rupar (atrupar) 19 mars 2020
Carlson, meanwhile, went from saying that the masks “of course” work in March 2020 to proclaiming that they “have no scientific basis” four months later. Although he reportedly directly urged then-President Donald Trump to take the coronavirus seriously at the onset of the pandemic, in recent weeks Carlson has made noise on several occasions. unconfirmed and doubtful self-reported accounts of vaccine side effects to emphasize that getting the vaccine is riskier than experts suggest.
And as I detailed last December, a major theme of Fox’s Covid-19 coverage during the winter months was trying to reframe the pandemic not as a humanitarian catastrophe that was killing over 2,000 Americans at the time. per day, but as an economic problem created by Democrats that primarily hurt business owners and workers.
More recently, Fox’s approach has been to highlight the rare negative reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine, ignoring the larger context that getting the vaccine is much safer than actually getting the disease. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, recently reiterated that even after the discovery of a rare new side effect of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, “the known and potential benefits clearly outweigh the known and potential risks.” Fox also deceptively suggested that those who have had Covid-19 do not need to be vaccinated.
Amid all this vaccine skepticism and hostility, there have been some out of context sound bites here and there from hosts (including Carlson) that can be interpreted as vaccine endorsements. These bites do not reflect the network’s wider coverage of the pandemic, but at least provide a pretext for Fox spokespersons to try to push back against claims that its coverage has been irresponsible and are good enough to convince casual observers. from Fox that the network is pivotal.
Elite indices – including Fox – count
Carlson’s top rated show is watched by nearly 3 million viewers every night, and Hannity attracts over 2.6 million. Additionally, in 2019, the average age of a Fox News viewer was 65 – an age at which people are particularly exposed to the coronavirus, especially if they are not vaccinated.
The questioning of the vaccine has consequences. As Philip Bump recently detailed for the Washington Post, there is a correlation between Fox News audience and reluctance to vaccinate. So not only are the Carlsons and Kilmeades of the world putting the lives of their own viewers at risk by discouraging them from getting vaccinated, but they endanger the health and well-being of all by making herd immunity more difficult. .
As my colleague German Lopez explained, signals like this from elites (like former President Donald Trump or cable hosts) have had real consequences by polarizing the way Americans have reacted to the pandemic – including, now, vaccines:
[T]apart from Republicans who reject the vaccine has not moved significantly all year, remaining in the 41-46% range.
By measuring the correlation between a state’s vaccination rate and the 2020 election results, Masket found a coefficient of 0.85, with 1 signifying a one-to-one correlation and 0 representing no correlation. As Masket noted, “We hardly ever see such a high correlation between variables in the social sciences. In fact, he added, “Immunization rates are a better predictor of the 2020 election than the 2000 election. That is, if you want to know how a state voted in 2020, you can get more results. information by knowing his current vaccination rate than by knowing how he voted 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, Ryan Grim from the interception reported Monday that Fox News implemented a Covid-19 vaccination passport program for its own staff, suggesting it recognizes the value of in-house vaccinations even if it grows skepticism publicly.
Unsurprisingly, even as Hannity’s comments on Monday were applauded, Kilmeade in Tuesday’s edition of Fox and his friends continued to grow skepticism about vaccines.
“The vaccine is not as effective against this delta variant as it is said”, falsely Kilmeade claims.
In fact, the CDC claims that Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States protect against serious hospitalizations and death from all known variants. As is the case with much of the vaccine discussion on Fox News, Kilmeade’s comments on Tuesday deceptively confused a positive Covid-19 case with a severe Covid-19 case, ignoring that s’ it is still possible to get Covid-19 after being vaccinated, it is much less likely that a case will result in hospitalization or death.