UPDATED, with Greene comment and Newsom response: California Governor Gavin Newsom called out Tucker Carlson and other figures on the right specifically for spreading vaccine misinformation and urged others to do so.
In an appearance on MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin Reports, Newsom said that the 25% of California residents who remain unvaccinated was due to an “overwhelming majority of misinformation by right wing pundits. Period, full stop. Time to be a little bit more specific. The Ron Johnsons of the world. The Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world. The Tucker Carlsons of the world. I watch them. I listen. I pay attention. They are misinforming. They are literally putting people’s lives at risk. People are dying because of the misinformation, either knowingly or unknowingly, regardless, time to call it out.”
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Newsom added that he recognizes that there are good people who have “real hesitancy and real concerns, and we are working in California in leading the way in addressing those issues, and getting family doctors and providers to address those concerns.”
“But let’s call it out. There has been a right wing talking point here, and it is overwhelmingly coming from certain networks, and it is having an impact on getting this disease behind us,” Newsom said.
Newsom made similar remarks earlier in the afternoon on CNN, when he also cited Carlson and said, “These guys on the right have been misinforming the public, and now people’s lives are at risk and the economy in our country is at risk and the ability to educate our kids is at risk. We need to be more direct about this. We need to call this out much more succinctly. We have life saving vaccines. We can end this pandemic, move away from the face covering debates and end this pandemic once and for all.”
As the Delta variant has led to a spike in Covid-19 cases, most pronounced in unvaccinated areas, there has been a new focus on the media ecosphere on the right, and the role that commentators have taken in feeding doubts and mistrust.
Carlson has said that he is pro-vaccine, but he’s also featured a number of vaccine skeptics as guests. In a May commentary, he claimed that more people “have died after getting the shot in four months during a single vaccination campaign than from all other vaccines combined over more than a decade and a half.” But fact checking sites challenged that claim as wildly misleading. “The bottom line is that it’s wrong to suggest that reported deaths in the VAERS database were all caused by vaccines. That’s not the case,” according to Factcheck.org. Politifact rated the segment as “false.” “People can die after getting vaccinated for any number of reasons unrelated to the vaccine.”
A network spokesperson pushed back against claims that the network was a spreader of vaccine misinformation, pointing to recent PSAs urging viewers to get the vaccine, as well as the promotion of a vaccine finder on the network’s website. The network also has pointed to on-air personalities who, going back to January, have been promoting vaccinations.
Newsom’s stance is in contrast to that of the Biden administration, which is making a point of not singling out the network. Last week, President Joe Biden suggested that Fox News figures had had an “altar call” given recent pro-vaccine statements. That included from Sean Hannity, who said, “I believe in science, I believe in the science of vaccinations. But I’m not a doctor. I’ve been pressured to tell people what to do. I’m telling people this: I want my audience to live. I don’t want anyone dying from this thing. It’s dangerous, take it seriously.”
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an interview with Snapchat’s political show Good Luck America that challenging Fox News personalities is “not the fight we want to fight right now.”
The Veterans Administration on Monday announced that its health care workers would be required to get the vaccine, making it the first federal entity to issue such a directive. “Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from Covid-19,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
Newsom is facing a Sept. 14 recall election, with those seeking to oust him blasting his response to the pandemic as overly aggressive in forcing closures and other mandates.
With the uptick in cases and concerns over the spread of the Delta variant, though, Newsom has so far left decisions to local officials. Los Angeles County reimposed mandates for mask-wearing in indoor public places, even if they have been vaccinated.
Greene responded to Newsom on Twitter, writing, “@GavinNewsom you know what is exhausting to the people of California? Your communist dictatorship. Shutting down businesses, closing churches, schools, and beaches is disgraceful Mandating vaccines against people’s will is unconscionable Which is why you’re being recalled.”
Then Newsom responded back. “Disgraceful? Here’s a word — murderous. Your anti-vaccine lies are literally killing Americans. Your own supporters are following you off a cliff and into the ICU. Come clean about vaccines — they save lives.”
Disgraceful? Here's a word — murderous.
Your anti-vaccine lies are literally killing Americans. Your own supporters are following you off a cliff and into the ICU.
Come clean about vaccines — they save lives. https://t.co/pJjlzJ3TVJ
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 26, 2021
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