A previous version of this report mischaracterized the relationships among Fox News, Fox Corp. and News Corp. It has been corrected.
President Joe Biden suggested that there’s recently been a “come to Jesus” moment when it comes to COVID vaccines among Republicans and aligned media.
The commander-in-chief didn’t name names while speaking at a CNN town hall on Wednesday, instead describing “one of those other networks — they’re not a big fan of mine, one you talk about a lot.” He appeared to consciously pull up short of criticizing on-air personalities at the network for now urging viewers to get vaccinated after months of expressing skepticism about the shots.
‘All of a sudden they’re out there saying, “Let’s get vaccinated, let’s get vaccinated.” The very people before this were saying — I shouldn’t make fun of it, that’s good. It’s good.”’
Biden appeared all but certainly to be referring to Fox News, as his comments came just days after Fox hosts including Sean Hannity and Steve Doocy began encouraging viewers to get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Early Monday, Doocy told “Fox & Friends” viewers, “If you have the chance, get the shot. It will save your life.” Later that same day, Hannity went viral on Twitter
for telling his audience to “please take COVID seriously,” adding, “I believe in the science of vaccination.”
And on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that “shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible” and asked that people “ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”
“As they say in the southern part of my state, they’ve had an altar call, some of those guys,” Biden said, referring to the religious act among members of some Christian denominations of approaching the altar to make a new spiritual commitment.
This, some hope, could represent an influential shift in tone at the Fox Corp. network, since polling suggests that many vaccine-hesitant Americans identify as conservative or Republican, and this group makes up Fox News’s core audience. (Fox Corp. and News Corp, parent company of MarketWatch publisher Dow Jones, share common ownership.)
One in three white conservatives has maintained a refusal to get vaccinated, the Washington Post reported.
Media critics including Matt Gertz at Media Matters and Vox’s Aaron Rupar have suggested that a couple of Fox anchors pushing for COVID vaccines after months of being skeptical about them does not signify a full-scale about-face, as other Fox News hosts have continued to voice skepticism about vaccines this week, and have continued to be accused of disseminating mis- and disinformation.
Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 illness are spiking among unvaccinated Americans, largely due to the rapidly spreading delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The World Health Organization has warned that the delta variant will become the dominant strain globally within months.
Some observers have posited that the delta variant is forcing a rethink on the political right. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who had previously put off vaccination, announced on Tuesday that he was getting a shot now due to his concerns about the delta variant.
Biden also warned during the CNN town hall that COVID-19 is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. “It’s gigantically important that … we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans” and get the shots, he said.