(Headline USA) When Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk talks to patients about the COVID-19 vaccine, she tries to feel out where they get their information from.
“Sometimes I feel like the education I have to provide depends on what news channel that they watch,” the doctor in Durham, North Carolina, said.
The mixed messaging can come from the same media outlet—and even the same source.
On Fox News Channel on Monday, host Sean Hannity looked straight into the camera to deliver a clear message: “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.”
Yet Hannity followed up his statement by interviewing a woman protesting her college’s requirement that students be vaccinated, a segment appealing to people skeptical of the immunization push.
Skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccination is a common theme in media appealing to conservatives.
Much of that may be attributable not to the television shows they watch, but to the mixed messages by decision-makers including the Biden administration and health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as notorious flip-flopper Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Many of the decisions, particularly the decisions to bog down the economy and impose draconian—albeit inconsistently enforced—lock-down measures in the lead-up to last year’s general election, have appeared to be politically motivated more than health-focused.
Case in point was the Biden administration’s ham-fisted attempt to encourage social-media censorship of conservative sites by claiming that the spread of dissenting opinions was “killing people.”
But that hasn’t stopped leftist mainstream media outlets from pouncing at the opportunity to take down a competitive market over its personalities’ refusal to fall in lockstep with an official narrative.
While a robust diversity of opinions used to be the norm, media outlets are now carping on the inconsistency of Fox, a traditional leader in the cable-news circuit.
Two recent exchanges in recent days on Fox News Channel’s popular morning show, “Fox & Friends,” illustrated the mixed messaging, claimed the Associated Press.
During a discussion of Los Angeles County’s decision to reinstate mandates to wear masks indoors, even if people are vaccinated, guest host Lawrence Jones said, “People are saying, ‘Why get the vaccine if you’re not going to return to normal? What’s the use of doing it? Why?’”
“Well, you won’t die,” colleague Steve Doocy replied. “That’s a good reason.”
Doocy, arguably Fox’s most influential figure arguing in favor of vaccinations, also took on co-host Brian Kilmeade on Monday when he said people should not be judged if they decide not to get the shot. Doocy responded that the vast majority of people who are dying of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
“That’s their choice,” Kilmeade replied.
Several personalities on Fox News Channel—including Bill Hemmer, Dana Perino, Bret Baier, Greg Gutfeld and the three-member “Fox & Friends” morning team—have been vaccinated and publicized their status. Rupert Murdoch, the network’s founder, has been jabbed, too.
The prime-time hosts, who consistently have the biggest audience, keep their status to themselves, although Hannity has said he was going to get vaccinated.
Carlson, when asked directly by two journalists whether he’s been vaccinated, responded by asking their favorite sex position—his way of saying it’s too personal a question.
Even casual consumers of media targeting conservatives over the past few months absorb a deep skepticism about the vaccines.
Malchuk says some patients who are happy to take her advice on, say, diabetes medication, have resisted her encouragement that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in warding off serious illness.
“I see people polarized in terms of where they get their information, from whom they get it and, yes, it is politically charged,” she said.
Most themes on talk radio or television networks like Fox, Newsmax or One America News are more subtle or philosophical.
The vaccine is experimental, still not fully approved, is one line of attack. Wait and see. There’s no reason for young people to get it. Natural immunity is better. It’s none of your business what I do. Government—he Biden administration especially—is intruding upon your life, trying to take control of your body.
“The advice they are giving you is not designed to help,” Carlson said Monday on his show, the most popular on cable news. “It is designed to make you comply.”
Two hours later, Ingraham said that it was President Joe Biden and his allies, not conservative media figures, who are “superspreaders” of COVID-19 misinformation.
Carlson and Ingraham have been the most aggressive in questioning vaccinations.
Carlson has said “the idea that you could force people to take medicine they don’t want or need” is scandalous.
But he also told viewers on Monday: “We’re not saying there is no benefit to the vaccine. There may well be profound benefits to the vaccine. Our mind is open and has been from the first day. We never encouraged anyone to take or not to take the vaccine. Obviously, we’re not doctors.”
Ingraham has suggested viewers “hide your kids” from “Biden’s vaccine pushers.” She also said Monday that “we want everyone to be healthy and safe and have their risk assessment done properly.”
On conservative media, resisters are depicted as heroes. Fox’s Pete Hegseth hailed a woman who filmed herself confronting two health care workers who were urging residents of a Los Angeles housing complex to get vaccinated and told them to leave the building.
Dan Bell, a One America News network host, invited a Republican congressman on as a guest because he admired the way the politician refused to answer an activist journalist who had asked about his vaccination status.
A Newsmax anchor, Rob Schmitt, on July 9 questioned whether vaccinations go against nature.
“If there’s some disease out there, maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just the way evolution goes,” he said. “Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”
Since then, Newsmax and its founder, Chris Ruddy, have said he and the network strongly support Biden’s efforts to widely distribute the vaccine.
The impact of this messaging is difficult to measure. A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken at the end of June revealed that 86% of Democrats said they had received at least one shot, compared to 45% of Republicans.
But its failure to penetrate—literally—a large portion of the population has prompted the Biden administration to up its efforts with even more divisive rhetoric and threats, including coronavirus door-to-door “strike forces” comprising left-wing election activists—some still wearing their “voter registration” shirts while canvassing minority neighborhoods.
The censorship threat—a clear abridgement of First Amendment rights, just as former President Donald Trump begins the process of initiating a class-action suit against three Big Tech companies for that purpose—likewise has made many vaccine holdouts who already distrusted the jab only retrench their position against it.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press