A new study has reached an obvious conclusion: People who rely primarily on Fox News for their information are more likely to believe dangerous falsehoods about the pandemic. The corporate sponsors who continue to enable this toxic network have it in their power to demand that it stop spreading this viral misinformation — and consumers have it in their power to demand that those sponsors act.
The Kaiser Family Foundation study asked viewers of Fox, CNN, MSNBC, network news and local news whether they believed seven common myths about the pandemic. Viewers of Fox were more likely to believe in falsehoods like government conspiracies to overstate the number of coronavirus deaths and understate the number of vaccine-related deaths, or that there are microchips in the coronavirus vaccines, or that infertility or DNA changes have been attributed to the vaccines.
To be clear, these are not only lies but potentially dangerous ones, as they make it more difficult to convince the public to get vaccinated against a disease that has killed 750,000 Americans in less than two years. Yet more than a third of Fox viewers believed in or were unsure of at least four of the seven false claims.
Kaiser stresses that its study doesn’t indicate whether Fox’s coverage is causing its viewers to believe misinformation or if the network, for whatever reason, is merely drawing viewers who are more apt to already have such beliefs. That chicken-or-egg caveat is a necessary one for the pollster, but examples abound of the network promoting falsehoods about the pandemic that common sense says would impact the views of its audience.
A prime example (but certainly not the only one) was Fox host Tucker Carlson’s unconscionable report earlier this year claiming that more than 3,300 people during a four-month period had “died after getting” the vaccine — “an average of roughly 30 people every day.” In addition to peddling the logical absurdity that dying “after” vaccination was evidence of dying from vaccination, Carlson didn’t tell his audience that he was using unverified figures from a self-reporting website known as a breeding ground for misinformation.
A federal follow-up found that not one death on Carlson’s report was attributable to the vaccine. Promoting putative conservatism is one thing, but this kind of corrosive misinformation has undoubtedly cost lives.
Fox’s list of sponsors is a moving target, but in the first half of this year, it included such major brands as Liberty Mutual insurance, Applebee’s restaurants and Nutrisystem weight-loss products. Since neither journalistic integrity nor basic humanity seems to hold any sway at the cable network, those and other companies that presumably would like to be seen as good corporate citizens should be insisting that for Fox to keep their business, it must stop promoting dangerous lies. If those advertisers won’t use that lever, their customers should be using it on them.