Right-wing media/pundits are beginning to change their tune in the United States.

First published in July 2021.

Maybe it’s because now it’s primarily the unvaccinated who are dying from COVID. Maybe it’s because it finally hit them that the more they tell people not to get vaccinated, the more of their own voters and supporters are getting sick and dying (Okay, that’s a bit gratuitous. But it’s also true.) Maybe it’s because some developed a conscience (unlikely as that seems) and decided making this just another of their us-versus-them issues is a deadly mistake.

I don’t know which, or if any of that is true. But the tracking I do of the right-wing media (which is getting one round-up email a morning of what they’re saying) shows a distinct change in tune. For example, last week’s email from The Righting showed that Newsmax, a crazy right-wing niche outlet led by Trump good buddy Chris Ruddy, quoted Ruddy as saying:

I like what Biden has done with the vaccine. At Newsmax, we have strongly advocated for the public to be vaccinated. The many medical experts that have appeared on our network have been near-unanimous in support of the vaccine. I myself have gotten the Pfizer vaccine. There’s no question countless lives would have been saved if the vaccine was available earlier.”

Sean Hannity, Fox News’ former top right-wing idol (a title he’s lost to colleague Tucker Carlson), the other night on his show said: “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.” Hannity said he will get vaccinated.

Meanwhile Carlson, who won’t say if he’s been vaccinated (but I’ve got a buck says he is), has been putting a decisive foot in each camp. According to Newsweek, “Carlson has repeatedly said that he isn’t against vaccination. Rather, he said, he has been concerned with finding answers about ‘basic questions’ concerning COVID-19 vaccines. His show has repeatedly cast doubt about the vaccine’s safety.”

Whatever their reasons for highlighting their more pro-vaccine positions, I’m glad they’re finally doing it and I hope it’s not too late to save some lives. Ninety-nine percent of the people getting COVID today and dying are unvaccinated men and women. Some are true long-term anti-vaxxers, but many are following the lead of their favorite right-wing talking head.

This follows the defenses being used by some of those arrested in the January 6 insurrection who say they invaded the Capitol because “(President) Trump said to do so.”

The point is these pundits and thought-leaders do influence how many Americans react whether it’s to political news, cultural news or getting themselves vaccinated. The point is not every issue is an us-versus-them issue. Sometimes we’re mostly all on the same side.

In this case, we all want to live.

It’s one reason the Biden Administration is trying to engage people key to various ethnic and age groups to push for vaccinations – not because the vaccine contains some kind of mind-controlling ingredient, or a chip that controls what you do or think – but because the vaccine works. It protects you from dying. Also, it’s a reason they’ve called for a door-to-door campaign to push getting vaccinated. (And, no, those knocking on doors are not there to give you a shot.) Those who say this isn’t the government’s job are wrong. The government is there to protect us. To accurately inform us.

If former President Trump was a different kind of personality, he could take the lead among his base and lobby them to get vaccinated. The vaccine was created on his watch.

A guest on another Fox program stated the other day: “People are saying, ‘why get the vaccine if you’re not going to return to normal? What’s the use of doing it? Why?”

To which host Steve Doocy replied, Well, you won’t die. That’s a good reason.”

Exactly. This is not about politics or mind control or a culture war or me-versus-you.

To paraphrase Doocy this life or death.” 


B. Jay Cooper, former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


[This piece was originally published in The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 27 July 2021, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Flickr/Gage Skidmore. - Sean Hannity. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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