Ruben Krueger

Faux News.

Photo credit Mulyadi / Unsplash

Lies

There are unknown lies; there are known lies; and there are known lies which lead to the deaths of countless people. From the inception of the pandemic, public health officials have fought against the biological danger of COVID-19 as much as the lies and deception created about COVID-19.

I was reminded of this reality when I was sitting in the examining room of a Bay Area hospital, where I was shadowing a physician. The doctor — let’s call him Dr. Joe — was conducting a phone visit with a patient. After addressing the patient’s chronic pain issues, Dr. Joe asked the patient about his vaccine status, a standard inquiry for any appointment these days.

The patient was not vaccinated, much to Dr. Joe’s disappointment. The patient cited the hesistance of his family members and information he had heard on Fox News as reasons for not getting the vaccine. The rest of the visit was consumed with Dr. Joe trying to convince the patient to get the vaccine, the ultimate test of stoicism and one’s ability to debunk vaccine misinformation. The call ended without a clear answer on whether or not the patient will get the vaccine; in any case, it’s emblematic of a larger issue.

Fox News and COVID-19 misinformation

Tucker Carlson

Fox News has been one of the largest sources of misinformation during the pandemic. Their lies have been willful, consistent, and worst of all, shameless. During the initial stage of the pandemic, America’s Most-Watched Cable Network downplayed the seriousness of the disease, questioned widely-accepted safety measures like masks, and recently, have campaigned against vaccines. The Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, has decried anti-vaccine misinformation by right-wing outlets such as Fox News as ‘reckless.’

Freedoms

When a man drinks a fifth of vodka, swerves into an oncoming lane and kills a family of four, he will face trial for manslaughter. When a right-wing pundit lies about the vaccine and their viewers die from COVID because they were unvaccinated, should there not also be consequences?

While our public health officials have not been perfect in their COVID-19 messaging (no one has articulated this better than the sociologist Zeynep Tufkeci), it is undeniable the harm that certain media outlets have caused.

Media pundits have a variety of reasons for spreading vaccine misinformation: ratings, political persuasion, their own ignorance. Regardless of the reason, it has forced many people like Dr. Joe to be both doctors and PR reps for science.