Some prominent conservative media figures on Monday dishonestly used the death of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who died of Covid-19 complications, to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines.
While Powell was fully vaccinated, he was also battling multiple myeloma, a cancer that suppresses the immune system, making him more susceptible to the virus and less likely to mount an immune response after being vaccinated. He was also in a higher risk group, being 84 years old.
Powell’s cancer, however, did not make it into the monologue of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Carlson, the right-wing talk network’s highest-rated star, instead used Powell’s death on Monday night to suggest Americans are “being lied to” about the vaccines.
Throughout his monologue, Carlson, who has declined to say whether he is vaccinated, cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines.
Carlson was not the only Fox News host to take such an approach.
Will Cain, who hosted the hour before him, also used Powell’s death to question the effectiveness of vaccines while ranting against mandates.
And John Roberts, the daytime Fox News anchor, deleted a tweet earlier in the day which said Powell’s death “raises new questions” about the effectiveness of vaccines.
None of the Fox News hosts made mention of the fact that 90% of Fox Corporation employees are vaccinated or the fact that unvaccinated Fox employees must submit to daily Covid-19 tests.
Outside the Fox News bubble, other conservatives on the radio and web also used Powell’s death to question the Covid-19 vaccines.
Anti-vaccine rhetoric has been a constant in right-wing media since early 2021.
A prominent tactic from those opposed to vaccines is the highlighting of unrepresentative anecdotes.
But studies have shown that the three Covid-19 vaccines being used in the United States are both safe and highly effective. The vast majority of deaths in the US are now among those who are unvaccinated.
Public health officials have encouraged the general public to not only get inoculated to protect themselves, but also others — such as those, like Powell, who are immunocompromised — from the virus.