Fox News and vaccines: What changed this week and what didn’t as fears over Delta variant rise

Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch (left) watch the US Open.
Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch (left).

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  • Fox News heavily emphasized vaccine awareness and promoted their efficacy on Monday.
  • While several hosts had previously touted the shots, Monday marked a significant departure.
  • Splinters remain among the primetime lineup, and the White House has been in touch with the network.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Typified by Sean Hannity’s monologue Monday night imploring his viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, a sea change has come over the Fox News airwaves this week when it comes to the life-saving shots.

The same day Insider and other outlets reported on Fox Corporation’s strict return to work policy involving an internal type of vaccine passport – first reported by Ryan Grim of The Intercept – Fox News hosts cranked up their vaccine messaging and banners featuring the federal government’s vaccine domain page ran across Monday’s programming.

Fox News’ vaccine coverage has often mirrored its overall pandemic framing of public health measures as culture wars, a format pioneered by its late founder and CEO Roger Ailes.

Fox News would not comment on internal deliberations for this story, and the network’s top hosts have long boasted about the autonomy they are given from leadership when it comes to their shows.

However, what may have seemed like a surprising development on Monday was actually the result of a months-long trajectory, with notable holdouts in the primetime lineup remaining.

Lots of Fox News hosts have been vaccinated, but Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have remained vocally anti-vax

Over the past few months, Fox’s pandemic segments did not usually feature open hostility toward vaccines, but some guests and top primetime hosts would baselessly lambast the Biden administration for potentially forcing the shots on Americans.

More than a year into the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans and continues to result in preventable deaths among the unvaccinated, the takes remain high in how Fox News covers the coronavirus and vaccines.

Worries the highly infectious Delta-variant of the virus could continue spreading among the unvaccinated and force more lockdowns sent financial markets plunging Monday.

Conservative men are still among the most likely Americans to refuse the shots, and Fox viewers more likely than the general population to say the same, according to polling from Pew Research and the Public Religion Research Institute.

The network has maintained that it has a sharp division between its news and opinion programming, with most shows airing during the day falling into the former category, while the “Fox & Friends” morning show, “The Five,” and primetime shows fall under opinion and routinely attract the largest audiences.

Yet when it comes to overall framing of COVID-19 measures, there have been similarities stretching from early mask mandates to vaccine passports.

The administration’s door-to-door outreach program was the latest subject of misleading segments, with both daytime and primetime hosts often focusing on the backlash to the program and a slippery slope toward authoritarianism rather than what it was: a nationwide outreach campaign led by local “community corps” groups.

Government overreach has been a consistent theme when it comes to the Biden administration’s pandemic response and vaccine rollout, but many anchors and hosts have attested to the benefits of the vaccine from personal experience.

Beyond news anchors who have spoken about getting the vaccine, opinion hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Jesse Watters, Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld, and Sean Hannity have all gone on-air to share that they got the shots.

Hannity initially said he was “beginning to have doubts” about the vaccine back in January, then said on his radio show that “it’s none of your business” before eventually disclosing on his radio show that he’d gotten the jab.

In an exclusive interview with Insider earlier in July, Watters framed his vaccine endorsement in terms of personal choice.

“Well, I got vaxxed. I got the J&J because I’m afraid of needles,” the co-host of “The Five” and host of “Watters World” told Insider. “And I told people, if you want to get the vaccine, go get the vaccine, go get vaccinated and it’s going to help kill this bug. And it did. Thank God. And it’s great.”

Other Fox personalities who have gone on record to say they’ve been vaccinated include Maria Bartiromo, Lawrence Jones, Trace Gallagher, Griff Jenkins, Mike Emmanuel, Bill Hemmer, George “Tyrus” Murdoch, Laura Ingle, Janice Dean, Charles Gasparino, John Roberts, and Guy Benson.

Yet while Hannity made an impassioned plea for his viewers to get the shot – or, at the very least, to do their own “research” and consult with their doctors – Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham did no such thing at the end of Monday’s vaccine blitz.

Both have espoused vaccine skepticism of their own and warned of nefarious alterior motives in the Biden administration’s efforts, and both have featured guests peddling conspiracy theories and outright false information about the immunizations, most notably with frequent appearances from Alex Berenson.

Berenson, a former New York Times reporter and fiction author, has peddled disinformation on the virus from the beginning, and many of his claims have been thoroughly debunked.

Despite the copious fact checks on Berenson and the fact that he is not a doctor nor an epidemiologist – and despite the wall-to-wall coverage promoting the vaccine on Monday – he was right back on Ingraham’s show that night.

As for Carlson, neither he nor the network will say if he has been vaccinated or if he ever plans to.

Carlson has had ample opportunities to say he refused to take the jab, but he has yet to do that, either.

Instead of taking the lead from his colleagues on Monday, Carlson doubled down and told his viewers to ignore “medical advice on television.”

While the rest of the network slowly eased up on framing the vaccine around conflict and culture wars, Carlson and Ingraham have continued to go full steam ahead in depicting the immunizations as something to not only be skeptical toward, but weary and afraid.

The influence of the White House and the Murdochs

At her press briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has been in touch with Fox and other outlets over vaccine coverage, going on to address the conservative network specifically.

“We understand also the importance of reaching Fox’s audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits, and like we are with you here today, we are in regular contact and we of course make efforts to have officials out on a range of networks to talk about COVID-19,” the press secretary said.

There have also reportedly been discussions between White House officials and network brass over vaccine coverage, including a private briefing earlier this year between Fox producers and senior Biden officials on it, according to Politico.

A Fox News Media spokesperson denied that there have been any high level discussions with the White House, referring to a tweet from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins earlier on Tuesday.

“CNN’s reporting is inaccurate,” the spokesperson told Insider in an email. “There have been no high level conversations between FOX News Media and the White House regarding our coverage. We had one routine briefing with the White House in early May on vaccination rates and our DC bureau personnel are regularly in touch with them on a variety of issues, as is the case with every other network.”

Fox Corp. did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the involvement of Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and whether they stand by what Carlson and Igraham have been saying about the vaccines.

In a May interview with Insider’s Claire Atkinson, Lachlan defended Carlson and his coverage, calling the top rated host’s willingness to say what many Americans are thinking “brave.”

Rupert Murdoch even got vaccinated before Queen Elizabeth II and President Biden back in December 2020, but he has not weighed in on his American network’s top hosts dismissing its efficacy.

The Murdochs have more power than anyone else on the planet to steer Fox News’ vaccine coverage amid the global coronavirus crisis – along with Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott – but Carlson and Ingraham continue to enjoy their apparent autonomy.

Speaking to Piers Morgan back in April, Carlson went out of his way to thank the Murdochs for allowing him to say whatever he wants.

“The only reason we are having this conversation is because the Murdoch family, which controls Fox, is standing up in the face of the mob, and they haven’t bowed,” Carlson said. “I mean that’s literally the only reason that I still have my job, and we’re having this conversation.”

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham suggests the US military should be defunded after top general’s defense of anti-racism education goes viral

Fox News host Laura Ingraham speaks to guests over a chyron reading "General Milley embarrasses himself with woke rant."
Fox News host Laura Ingraham, center.

  • Fox News host Laura Ingraham lashed out at top US Gen. Mark Milley over his viral testimony.
  • Milley defended the military against critiques that it has gone “woke” with diversity training.
  • Ingraham said Pentagon efforts to weed out extremists “just means conservative Evangelicals.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After Fox News opinion host Laura Ingraham made sure to note she respects Gen. Mark Milley’s service – an infantry officer who served in the Green Berets during his four-decade career – she tore into the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The segment on her 10 p.m. show is the latest episode of prominent Fox personalities putting the military on blast, with the network’s top-rated host, Tucker Carlson, mocking “woke generals” in March after defense officials called him out for spreading misinformation about transgender service members and suggesting pregnant women would fight wars.

Milley’s Congressional testimony went viral on Wednesday when the general swatted away accusations from Republicans that the military has gone “woke” by embracing critical race theory, an academic practice focusing on how racism plays a role in laws and public policy.

The general explained how diversity training is important and that cadets at West Point are also university students who should be “open minded and be widely read,” but that does not mean they’ve been radicalized.

Ingraham took umbrage at Milley’s testimony.

Ingraham accused Milley of being “a total partisan,” and misleadingly described Pentagon efforts to weed out white supremacists and other extremists.

“We are sending our tax dollars to this military in an attempt to weed out so-called extremists, which just means conservative Evangelicals, as far as I can tell,” Ingraham said.

“The fact is, Milley has made his choice,” she said at another point. “And he’s chosen to indulge the radical whims of Democrats. He’ll do everything they tell him as long as they keep the military-industrial complex flush with cash.”

Some of Milley’s testimony was directed at critiques from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who went from being a fixture on Fox News to not appearing at all ever since he became enveloped in a child sex trafficking investigation that he maintains is a a smear campaign against him.

The attacks show the extent that even Milley, a Trump nominee, has been unable to steer the US military clear of the cultural wars. Milley oversees a work force of nearly 1.4 million active-duty troops and their instruction from boot camps to graduate schools that ensure they are a capable and cohesive fighting force that doesn’t tolerate abuse or discrimination in the ranks.

Read more: How Matt Gaetz went in just 3 months from Fox News darling to being ‘excommunicated’ from the network’s many shows

She then suggested defunding the military over critical race theory, which Milley said isn’t something he’s very familiar with, and focused most of his testimony on broader instruction about the United States’ history of racism within the armed forces.

“Why is Congress not saying we’re not going to give you a penny until all of this is eradicated from the military budget,” Ingraham said. “Nothing. This is my offer to you: nothing. That’s what I would say. I am totally outraged by him and his ridiculous response today.”

Ingraham also accused Milley of being a Marxist, a critique he specifically addressed on Wednesday.

“I’ve read Mao Zedong, I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Milley said. “So what is wrong with some situational understanding of the country for which we are personally here to defend?”

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Fox News host Harris Faulkner complimented Vladimir Putin for answering questions for longer than Joe Biden – before the US president even spoke

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner reacts to Russian President Vladimir Putin's solo press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. A chyron underneath her reads "Awaiting Biden comments after Putin's remarks."
Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner.

  • A Fox News host remarked that Vladimir Putin is more accessible to the press than Joe Biden.
  • Harris Faulkner said Putin took questions for longer than Biden and VP Kamala Harris combined.
  • Her observation did not factor in Biden’s press conference right after Putin’s.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner said that Vladimir Putin gave more time to the press than Joe Biden, even though the US president had not yet delivered his solo press conference on Wednesday.

“We saw that President of Russia answering more questions in front of the media, longer than I can remember either the current president or his vice president combined in terms of time and number of questions,” Faulkner said.

Her guest, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agreed before criticizing Putin for drawing false equivalencies between the US and Russia.

Putin, who has been accused by the international community of killing journalists and has been linked to several assassinations, answered questions from the foreign press before Biden on Wednesday.

Faulkner stopped short of explicitly praising Putin, saying she was choosing her words “closely and carefully.”

On her daytime show, “Outnumbered,” Faulkner has frequently criticized Biden for not taking more questions from reporters and not doing enough interviews.

She also criticized Biden for not appearing alongside Putin as former President Donald Trump had. Pompeo had previously insisted that Biden follow Trump’s lead with a joint press conference, and repeated that message during his Wednesday appearance on Fox.

Faulkner returned to the issue of Biden and Putin appearing separately, saying: “Today, when you see these two leaders separate after meeting for three hours and more than 15 minutes, and you see them come out, their messaging will be very different.”

“Does his message get muddled, thereby the message of the American people?” Faulkner said of Biden going second.

“We blew it,” Pompeo said.

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Fox News host says Biden should stop talking about ‘the 500,000 dead’ and quit kicking Trump ‘in the groin’

brian kilmeade covid deaths
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade.

  • A Fox News host chided President Biden for dedicating part of his speech to the COVID-19 death toll.
  • “We don’t need to go over the 500,000 dead. We had that moment,” Brian Kilmeade said Friday.
  • Kilmeade said Biden doesn’t give the Trump administration credit and “kicks them in the groin.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On Friday’s episode of “Fox & Friends,” co-host Brian Kilmeade scolded President Joe Biden for bringing up the COVID-19 death toll during his national speech the night before.

“We don’t need to go over the 500,000 dead. We had that moment,” Kilmeade said.

“Let’s talk about the future moving forward,” Kilmeade continued. “Every time he has a chance to praise the previous administration, he not only doesn’t praise, he kicks them in the groin.”

Biden brought up the death toll in his speech by referencing the figure he keeps on the back of his daily schedule in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. As of Friday, over 29 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 530,800 people have died of the illness, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The rest of the speech was dedicated to his newly-passed stimulus plan and his effort to get all Americans eligible for vaccination by May 1.

In another defense of Trump, Kilmeade addressed the former president directly at another point in the broadcast.

“The Wall Street Journal says – and get this, and if Donald Trump is watching, he’s gonna say ‘I told you so’ – Trump’s biggest mistake was putting too much faith in health experts and their lockdown models,” he said.

Fox News weathered heavy criticism during the early days of the pandemic for downplaying the dangers of COVID-19, following the playbook of late CEO Roger Ailes by framing the virus in the language of culture wars.

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Ted Cruz stayed at this luxury 5-star hotel during his trip to Cancun

Cancun, Mexico
  • Sen. Ted Cruz visited a Ritz-Carlton hotel amid the Texas storm last week.
  • The five-star resort has 9 dining options and a panoramic ocean-front view.
  • Amid backlash, Cruz stayed at the hotel for one night before returning home.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz left behind frigid Texas temperatures to visit the luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Cancun.

Cruz’s decision to fly to Cancun, while millions of Texas residents battled severe winter storms, power outages, and water shortages, sparked intense backlash.

The senator also invited several people outside of the family to the hotel, which the Cruz family has reportedly visited “many times” in the past, according to leaked text messages from the senator’s wife, Heidi Cruz.

Cancun has become a popular destination during the pandemic. Expedia’s 2021 Travel Trends Report lists Cancun as the No. 1 destination for US travelers.

Here’s what you need to know about the luxury Cancun resort Cruz frequents:

Accommodations at the five-star luxury hotel start at over $300

The Mexican resort has a sweeping ocean view. All the rooms at the hotel look out on the Caribbean sea and feature private balconies and terraces.

The luxury resort also has one of the largest hotel beach fronts in Cancun – 1,200 feet of prime beach real estate.

Forbes’ Travel Guide ranks the Ritz-Carlton as one of the top luxury hotels in Cancun.

 

The hotel has over nine dining options

The Ritz-Carlton can house over 360 guests and features two award-winning restaurants – Fantino and The Club Grill.

Guests can visit Fantino, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant decorated with Old World-style elegance, or enjoy live jazz music at The Club Grill. 

Hotel visitors can also participate in a private dining experience from their balcony with the hotel’s 24-hour dining services or try the resort’s expansive tequila menu at D-Lounge, which is home to over 100 different tequila options.

The Ritz-Carlton also has interactive meal services. The Culinary Center has an oceanfront kitchen where award-winning chefs prepare a custom meal, teaching the guests throughout the process. 

 

The resort has one of the top spas in Cancun

While visitors can enjoy private beach cabanas and lounges off the ocean, the hotel features a wide variety of other aquatic amenities, including two swimming pools and a whirlpool that looks out on the ocean.

The Ritz-Carlton has one of the area’s best spas, according to Forbes. The 5,500-square-foot spa focuses on Mayan-inspired healing practices.

Additionally, guests looking to relax in their rooms can enjoy 400-count Egyptian cotton sheets, large marble bathrooms with a separate shower and bathtub, as well as bi-daily cleaning services.

Cruz, who said he planned to work in Cancun, would have likely used the resort’s full service Business Center and childcare options.

 

Cruz cut his stay at the Ritz-Carlton short after a picture of the senator at the airport went viral.

He decided to only stay at the hotel for one night after multiple state residents expressed outrage at his decision to leave Texas in the middle of a deep freeze that left many Texans without electricity, heat, or fresh water.

Cruz later apologized for the trip as protestors called for his resignation.

“It was obviously a mistake and in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it,” Cruz said.

Upon his return, Cruz was seen helping serve meals to first responders – a move that defied CDC guidelines, requiring individuals to quarantine for at least a week after traveling.

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