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Who to believe? / July 28, 2021
Sun reader Tony Moore of South Hill has written a very polite Viewpoint letter below in response to my column last week, so let’s respond in kind. Taking his argument one assertion at a time, Mr. Moore states that neither of the two Fox News personalities mentioned in this space last week, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, has “ever claimed to be medical doctors” and “[n]either has advocated for or against the vaccine.” He’s certainly correct that neither Carlson nor Ingraham professes any particular medical expertise. As for them taking a neutral view on vaccination? Um, let’s roll the tape:

LAURA INGRAHAM: “Well, so you believe that the COVID vaccine is not necessary?”

DR. SUCHARIT BHAKDI (GUEST): “I think it’s downright dangerous. And I warn you, if you go along these lines, you are going to go to your doom. And it’s so, so unnecessary.”

— From the Dec. 2, 2020, edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle

TUCKER CARLSON: “Democrats believe vaccines are the answer to everything. Shh. Don’t ask questions; just take the shot.”

— From the Nov. 10, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight

CARLSON: “If the vaccine is effective, there is no reason for people who’ve received a vaccine to wear masks or avoid physical contact. So maybe it doesn’t work, and they’re simply not telling you that. Well, you’d hate to think that, especially if you’ve gotten two shots. But what’s the other potential explanation? We can’t think of one.”

— From the April 13, 2021 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight

CARLTON: “It turns out there are things we don’t know about the effects of this vaccine — and all vaccines, by the way. It’s always a trade-off.”

— From the March 15, 2021 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight

“Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk … so we use them to develop herd … we want them infected.”

— Paul Alexander, former Trump Administration science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, who is now a frequent guest on The Ingraham Angle. (This quote is taken from an email that Alexander wrote as a Trump administration official, in July 2020, and did not originate on Ingraham’s show. However, Alexander has told Ingraham on the air that the vaccines are “experimental” and “highly untested as to safety.”)


One could go on practically forever in this vein, so let’s shift gears and turn to a lone Republican elected official who just this week called out Fox News and like-minded conservative media outlets as the antivaxx propaganda organs that they are.

Here’s Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, using rhetoric not so different than the passage in last week’s column stating that Carlson, Ingraham, et al are “merchants of death”:

“We have these — these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine. That kind of stuff is just, it’s ridiculous. It’s dangerous, it’s damaging, and it’s killing people. I mean, it’s literally killing their supporters. And that makes no sense to me.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is, by the way, a ruby-red conservative who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

One more:

“Folks [are] supposed to have common sense, but it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down”— Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

Ivey, in case you haven’t guessed, is also a conservative Republican. Not too many Democrats get elected to statewide office in Alabama, dontcha know.

Ah, you’re probably thinking right about now: But our letter writer, Mr. Moore, makes the point in his letter (see below) that “nearly 70 percent of ‘pro-Trumpers’ and/or Republicans have been vaccinated.” The quotes cited above by two Republican governors practically prove his point about acceptance of the vaccines!

Sadly, no.

I have no idea where Mr. Moore gets his claim that 70 percent of Republicans have gotten their shots — he provides no source for this information, and there’s not a health department in America that keeps track of the partisan affiliation of vaccine recipients — but polling data clearly points to where a majority of Republicans stand on vaccination.

Suffice it to say, the numbers do not back up our letter writer’s claim — the partisan realities are not nearly so pretty as he makes them out to be. In March and April, the Gallup Poll surveyed respondents and found that “[a]bout half of Republicans, 46 percent, compared with 31 percent of independents and six percent of Democrats, do not plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

This is just an opinion poll, of course, and polls get it wrong from time to time, but the real proof is in the pudding: the 10 states that have seen the biggest growth in new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, adjusted per 100,000 population, are as follows, from first place to 10th: Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Nevada, Alaska and Kansas. Of those states, one voted for Joe Biden in the presidential election (Nevada, just barely) and rest, well …. y’know. These states also have low rates of vaccination. Anyone here sensing a trend?

It’s good to hear from people like Mr. Moore, who seems like a decent fellow who hopefully won’t ever have to pay a price for buying into the fraudulent claims of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and their ilk. But let’s be clear about this much: While it speaks well of a person to communicate in moderate, outwardly reasonable tones, lurking beneath this placid approach is dangerous crackpottery. It’s difficult on the face, for instance, to argue against “the importance of every American consulting with their doctor before any vaccination or medical procedure,” as Mr. Moore puts it. Some immune-compromised individuals are not candidates for the covid vaccine, nor for any vaccine for that matter. But outside of a few select individuals, there is no valid medical reason not to get inoculated against COVID-19. If your doctor tells you otherwise, you need a new doctor.

The scamming of well-meaning ordinary citizens by high-profile public figures — in politics, in the media, among the clergy, in the scientific, business and entertainment worlds — is nothing new. But the soullessness of people who would elevate their celebrity and reap the ensuing riches by cynically exploiting the fears of a falsehood-besotted public is something we haven’t quite seen before. In searching the internet for damning quotes by Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and other right-wing media figures — the kind of statements that, rather than merely a bad-faith exercise in “just asking questions,” demonstrate outright hostility to vaccination — I came across other moments from Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle that echo, practically word-for-word, claims that Mr. Moore makes in his letter. (His assertion that migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have driven up COVID-19 caseloads almost perfectly mirrors the immigrant bashing that took place on Ingraham’s show earlier this month.) If this were simply a story of scammers and the scammed, it would be easy to let the damage play out and move on. Believe me, I don’t take any special joy in pointing out that the conservative media establishment, and a large segment of the Republican Party, are doing their level best to sicken and endanger their own supporters. My doing so inevitably causes readers like Mr. Moore to scan this column and think, “Now that guy is unhinged.” Alas, facts are inconvenient things.

Pointing out the truth about anti-vaxx propaganda and its vile effects on society becomes even more important when it’s more than the health and welfare of Fox News watchers that’s at stake. The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 is not, according to state health department data, the prevalent form of the virus in our area, where caseloads have only recently begun to tick back up again. But our time is surely coming. With the county’s rate of vaccination being so low, it’s highly possible that Southside Virginia could see a resurgence of the virus equaling that in Florida, Missouri, Arkansas and other misbegotten states. This is an outcome that is entirely avoidable, if only people would go get their shots. The vaccine is safe, highly effective, and free. Getting it means that, save for extremely rare cases, you will not get seriously sick or die from COVID-19. Do not shun the shots and make manifest the lies of the merchants of death. Please.

Perhaps you’ve already come across a recent Facebook post by an Alabama provider, Dr. Brytney Cobia, who works as a hospitalist physician at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala. Her words made the rounds, to put it mildly. Let’s let Dr. Cobia have the last word:

“I’ve made a LOT of progress encouraging people to get vaccinated lately!!! Do you want to know how? I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”

At a loss

Dear Viewpoint:

I am at a loss here with Tom McLaughlin’s accusations of disinformation from Republicans (The View From Here, July 21 edition of The Sun). Did you see the president’s town hall last week? Well, comments on that would take another separate response.

In Mr. McLaughlin’s commentary, he stated that Republican-led states have the highest number of new COVID cases. Where do you get that information and please, prove it? If you are referring to Texas, Arizona, Louisiana or California (D) then it is pretty easy to figure. We have open borders by your president that allow for migrants to come into this country infected and most refuse the vaccine. So yes, the numbers are up but make sure to be truthful as to why! Saying it is the fault of Republicans, well that is disinformation. As my dad used to say, “That is a flat out lie!”

In his commentary McLaughlin wrote that the “Tucker Carlsons and Laura Ingrahams” of the world were “not only merchants of misinformation but merchants of death.” Neither Fox News or the two commentators have ever claimed to be medical doctors. In fact, both have repeatedly voiced the importance of every American consulting with their doctor before any vaccination or medical procedure. Neither has advocated for or against the vaccine. Both are aggressive in questioning our government and our leaders as to what is truth pertaining to COVID-19. The US Constitution affords us that right to question our government as it also affords you sir the right to write your editorials each week.

Now back to COVID-19. So-called Dr. Anthony Fauci is the king of misinformation in regards to the coronavirus. From day one he has at best been inconsistent on his comments about COVID-19. Fauci has proven to be nothing more than a political hack that has dreams of becoming relevant. He has only proven to be a failed true American that should be nonpolitical in his approach but the man cannot be what we need in these times. Time for change that is long overdue.

As for your comments about those that have had the virus and have little to no immunity going forward. Top scientists and the CDC are disputing your claim. I do agree with you on one thing for sure: The vaccine appears to be safe and effective and those people that are at risk with underlying health issues should seriously consider getting it, but only under the advice of their medical doctor. You or I do not qualify to dictate that advice. This is not the same as questioning our leaders in government, which we all have that right including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.

Although not mentioned by you in the commentary, the media portrays “pro-Trumpers” as people refusing the vaccine. The real facts are nearly 70 percent of “pro-Trumpers” and/or Republicans have been vaccinated. Sadly, and I hate categorizing Americans into a group as we are all Americans no matter race, sex, religion or background. Many studies and polls taken have revealed about 30 percent of minorities to include Hispanic and Black Americans are unvaccinated. Their reasoning for not getting it are not socioeconomic or oppression in any way. Overwhelmingly they distrust the information they hear from the government, which mainly comes from the media. Where they get their media information from is unknown but they really do not trust government.

Mr. McLaughlin, it is obvious some of the comments you make and state as fact are not facts but your comments. That is what misinformation is, a person or organization (media) representing opinions as facts. That sir is in my opinion a lay approach to journalism. When you write oped and distinguish as such, I may disagree but respect your right as an American to opine as you wish. Remember real misinformation is representing opinions or even lies as facts. You probably will not print his but that’s okay as long as you sir read it.

God bless America and you Mr. McLaughlin,

Tony Moore
South Hill

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