In a recent Washington Post column, reporter Philip Bump attempted to quantify just how large an asshole Carlson is—and the answer appears to be “massive.” Bump started off by citing previous research that identified a clear correlation between being a Republican and foolishly dying of COVID. That’s hardly surprising. Republicans have been killing themselves to own the libs for decades—most notably by opposing health care initiatives that would greatly improve their lives and their prospects of reaching old age. So this was just another data point in a long-term trend.
But there’s now evidence to show that alone among the major TV networks, Fox News had an outsized effect in convincing Republicans to kill themselves even faster.
Bump started off by asking why Republicans have been less likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and he concluded that it’s not just because their hero Trump wanted to pretend the virus didn’t exist. The Washington Post:
In part, we can point to the interplay of partisanship itself. As president, Trump tried to play down the danger of the virus and, with an eye to reelection, cast efforts to contain the virus as power plays from an overbearing government. This certainly helped influence behaviors among Republicans on vaccination, masking and social distancing.
Bump then quoted from a study published last week that found a significant Fox News effect when it came to vaccine refusal.
“Our results show that Fox News is reducing COVID-19 vaccination uptake in the United States, with no evidence of the other major networks having any effect,” the study from researchers at ETH Zurich concluded. “[T]here is an association between areas with higher Fox News viewership and lower vaccinations,” noting that “media emphasis on minority viewpoints against scientific consensus is linked to vaccination hesitancy.”
And in case you’re wondering if the study’s authors controlled for other variables—like Trump supporters’ proclivity for rejecting science, common courtesy, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on how to safely purple-nurple fruit bats—yes, they did. (Being mammals, bats do, in fact, have nipples. Thanks, Google! And science! And the brave, inquisitive bat-milkers who started it all!)
“We can rule out that the effect is due to differences in partisanship, to local health policies, or to local COVID-19 infections or death rates,” wrote the the study’s authors. “The other two major television networks, CNN and MSNBC, have no effect.”
So almost certainly—judging by the unambiguous survival advantage imparted by the COVID vaccines—Fox News has been killing its viewers. Full stop.
Of course, the biggest vaccine defamer at the network is Tucker Carlson, whose show freely traffics in vaccine disinformation (aka bullshit). Bump noted that in May 2021, Carlson’s show was the second-most popular on cable news, and the most popular among viewers aged 25 to 54. And, hey, that was really bad news for people aged 25 to 54.
What was Carlson saying about the vaccine in May 2021? See for yourself. But it included his elevation of inaccurate numbers about purported deaths from coronavirus vaccines and touting the idea that natural immunity was as effective as vaccination — ignoring, of course, the risk posed by reaching natural immunity. Carlson played host to covid-vaccine opponent Alex Berenson more than once. (Berenson’s shaky grasp of the data had already earned him the apt title “the pandemic’s wrongest man.”)
So while it would be irresponsible to unequivocally state that Tucker Carlson killed at least some of his viewers, it’s nevertheless a pretty fair assumption. As Bump notes, the Department of Health and Human Services has reported that the COVID-19 vaccines likely saved 330,000 lives in 2021—just among those enrolled in Medicare. Imagine if fewer of them had watched Fox News. They might still be alive.
Then again, watching Tucker Carlson and dying of an excruciatingly painful, easily preventable disease are pretty much a horse apiece, aren’t they?