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America’s most popular TV host, Tucker Carlson, continues to share baseless
COVID-19 conspiracy theories with his millions of Fox News viewers while
comparing vaccine mandates to authoritarian overreach. In reality, though, Carlson’s pushing of debunked conspiracy theories obscures the real scandal: America’s high rate of vaccine hesitancy, combined with the hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines by wealthy countries like the US, all but guarantee billions in profits for vaccine manufacturers and Big Pharma for years to come. TRNN’s Jaisal Noor reports.


Jaisal Noor:        America’s most-watched cable TV host, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, loves talking about COVID-19, spending segment after segment warning his viewers of what he claims are the real dangers of the pandemic.


Tucker Carlson:    All of a sudden, Democrats were arguing that, actually, politicians do get to decide what you do with your body. It’s their choice, not yours. Inject these powerful drugs, whether you want to or not, because we own you.

Jaisal Noor:        Tucker Carlson Tonight even aired multiple segments on Nicki Minaj’s debunked claim [that] her cousin’s friend’s testicles became swollen after taking a COVID-19 vaccine.

Tucker Carlson:    [laughs] She doesn’t care if Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles are enlarged, and his fiance left.

Jaisal Noor:        That claim was denied by the health minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Health Minister:    There is absolutely no reported such side effect, or adverse event, of testicular swelling in Trinidad. Or, I dare say, Dr. Heinz, anywhere else?

Dr. Heinz:        None that we know.

Health Minister:    None that we know of anywhere else in the world.

Jaisal Noor:        Tucker by no means is the only prominent media figure to embrace the anti-vax movement, and social media companies bear responsibility for incentivizing and profiting from the spread of disinformation. This is Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen talking to 60 Minutes:

Frances Haugen:    …But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that it’s polarizing… It’s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions. Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site. They’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,

Jaisal Noor:        But with over 2 million nightly viewers on his Fox News show alone and millions of followers on social media, Tucker’s audience and influence is vast. Instead of just spreading conspiracy theories and contributing to America’s astronomical rate of vaccine hesitancy, why won’t Tucker talk about the actual scandal that exposes the corporate corruption of our political system, and that’s putting millions of lives at risk?

In reality, Tucker’s anti-vaccine message benefits pharmaceutical companies. Having large populations of the unvaccinated all but ensures vaccine makers guaranteed profits for years to come. And despite the soaring profits of insurance companies during the pandemic, now most are requiring patients pay the cost of COVID-19 treatment, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And even with insurance, a stay in the ICU for COVID can cost more than $100,000. Just 42% of the population of Alabama is fully vaccinated, despite the fact that more people died from COVID-19 in the state than were born during the pandemic.

The Biden administration issued a vaccine mandate.

President Joe Biden:    …my fellow Americans, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Jaisal Noor:        Which is grounded in legal precedent, and are routinely issued by schools, universities, and the military to prevent outbreaks of infectious disease. It’s already proven to be successful in raising vaccination rates, but Carlson likened Biden’s move to authoritarian overreach.

Tucker Carlson:    But the principle remains. If you can force people to get the vaccine, what can’t you do?

Jaisal Noor:        Even as his own employer, Fox News, said in an internal memo that 90% of its staff became vaccinated after it issued a vaccine mandate, which is tougher than the federal government’s. Tucker also routinely rails against the abuses of big businesses and powerful governments. So why has he ignored an actual COVID-19 scandal that exposes how pharmaceutical companies are colluding with wealthy countries to deny vaccines to the Global South? A new study estimates 100 million vaccine doses [that] are [being] hoarded by wealthy countries will expire this year because millions refuse to take them.

Meanwhile, it’s likely that deadlier variants will continue to emerge because vast numbers of people, including 98% of the population of poor countries, simply can’t get vaccines. That’s because wealthy countries are hoarding limited vaccine supplies, and are blocking the release of vaccine formulas that would allow poor countries to manufacture them on their own. Pharmaceutical companies, including vaccine makers, who shower politicians with millions in campaign contributions, recently demonstrated their influence over Congress when Democrats, flush with donations from pharmaceutical companies, joined with Republicans to block a plan to lower drug prices, which are far higher in the US than comparable countries.

That wealthy countries continue to block patent waivers and have high rates of vaccine hesitancy all but guarantees vaccine makers will continue to make billions in profits as COVID-19 spreads and mutates unchecked. And Tucker Carlson and others like him are ultimately serving these corporations’ interests, not the public’s.

For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.