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Biden tiptoes around Fox News amid decline in Covid vaccine misinformation


White House officials said they recognize the need to reach Fox’s audiences and insist they are making efforts to do so. In total, members of Biden’s Covid-19 team have made about a dozen appearances on Fox since the end of January, albeit on a few select shows. Four appearances have been on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace”; three with daytime anchor Neil Cavuto and the others on America’s Newsroom and TV news hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said the administration “has no hesitation in shouting ‘misinformation and pushing media platforms” to deliver the right information to their viewers on public health issues “. Every outlet, including Fox, he added, needed to “step up and ensure that their coverage provides accurate and objective information on COVID-19 and vaccines.”

But Biden’s aides contend that aggressively attacking Fox for helping push vaccine plots would be a counterproductive way to reach his audience. Instead, they tried to engage more broadly with the network on their coverage of confidence in vaccines. Their efforts included a private briefing earlier this year between Fox producers and senior White House officials to discuss specific and informed coverage on taking Covid-19 vaccines, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

“We have been in contact with all the networks and many media on the coverage of Covid-19 to make sure people have accurate information, to voice their concerns when we have them,” the press secretary said on Tuesday. from the White House, Jen Psaki.

White House aides said they were encouraged by signs that some Fox day hosts and others in the conservative media are taking vaccines more seriously. On Monday night, White House senior adviser Neera Tanden took the unusual step of encouraging her subscribers to retweet a clip of Sean Hannity embracing vaccines on her schedule.

But Democrats outside the administration say Biden’s team should go much further. They want them to place officials on Fox more frequently, especially on nights when misinformation and even fear around vaccines has been most prevalent.

“Nighttime shows present challenges,” said Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who popularized a one-size-fits-all approach while helping lead Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic presidential campaign in 2020. “But what’s the point here? We are not trying to win a political argument. Our goal here is to provide people with essential public health information and facts and to save lives. What if the only shows they listen to is Tucker [Carlson], Laura [Ingraham] and [Sean] Hannity, then you just have to go where they are and stand up for their cause.

Although the pandemic has made the stakes much higher, Democrats have long been upset about the extent to which they should engage Fox News. In the fall of 2009, the Obama White House went to war with the network amid growing frustration over the conspiratorial thoughts of then-host Glenn Beck. They excluded Chris Wallace from a series of interviews on the Sunday presidential broadcast and blacklisted Fox from a Treasury Department briefing.

“We are going to treat them like we would treat an adversary,” said Obama’s communications director Anita Dunn, who now serves as a senior advisor to Biden. “[W]We don’t need to pretend that this is how legitimate media outlets behave.

Eventually, the White House backed down after Fox News competitors rallied to its side. But the animosity lingered all along Obama’s time in power, and he remains so to this day. Bill Burton, who was the deputy press secretary during the time of the Obama-Fox crash, said he thought Fox was “worse now than he was then.” He suggested that the FCC “view them” as “a danger to the country.”

A Fox News executive said the FCC had no authority over cable channels, calling the suggestion “grossly ignorant and ill-informed.”

Few Democrats say they think Fox’s solution comes in the form of government regulators. But neither do they seek to engage constructively with the network.

Democrats’ anger at Fox’s Covid coverage has grown in recent times, as the Delta variant has spread across the country and the administration’s own data shows the unvaccinated composition 99.5% recent deaths from Covid-19. Liberal watchdog Media Matters analyzed two weeks of programming on the network and concluded that hosts and guests “reiterated the fear and downplayed the need for continued vaccination campaigns.” In all, the report found that the majority of its segments on vaccinations, 60 percent, featured voices that undermined confidence in the shots.

In response, a Fox News representative pointed to recent examples of several on-air personalities on the news and opinion side promoting the vaccine, the vaccine-focused network PSA and the chain’s vaccine finder, which helps people find the closest immunization locations to them.

But in recent days, the co-host of “Fox & Friends” Brian Kilmeade falsely said that the vaccine is not as effective against the Delta variant “as it is said,” breaking up with his morning colleague Steve Doocy, who noted that the vaccine has been shown to be extremely useful in keeping people infected with the variant alive and outside the hospital.

Carlson, Ingraham, and their guests took it a step further, offering misleading warnings about the possible drawbacks, if not dangers, of getting the vaccine and the government’s over-efforts in trying to find unvaccinated Americans to encourage them to get the vaccine. . Carlson has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of not telling the truth, most recently when he dismissed CDC director Rochelle Walensky for saying the vast majority of new cases were with unvaccinated people, a statement supported by government data. And while Hannity made some positive remarks about the vaccinations on Monday night, they were also sandwiched between segments questioning the vaccine.

Matt Bennett, a senior leader of the centrist Democrat group Third Way and a regular guest on Fox News, said he saw no benefit in the White House calling on the network to push vaccine misinformation. “Facebook could respond to pressure from the White House with constructive action,” he said. “Fox is likely to do the opposite.”

And while he’s comfortable engaging with Fox’s daytime hosts, he predicted it would backfire if the White House were to bring in officials – even task force health experts. Covid – on evening programs.

“The problem with people like Hannity, and that’s true with all prime time programming, is that they don’t let you talk, they yell at you, they have the last word in coming up with a blizzard. bullshit, ”Bennett said.

For Trump veterans who believe in the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine, the White House’s approach to conservative platforms has been far too rigid, and not just when it comes to Fox News. Sean Spicer, Trump’s former press secretary turned Newsmax host, said he made several attempts to book Anthony Fauci – the president’s best Covid adviser – in his program, only to be pushed back. He had former Democratic Rep. Barney Frank instead.

Joe Grogan, Trump’s former director of the White House Home Policy Council and an early member of the White House Coronavirus task force, called Biden White House’s take on the media conservatives of “contemptuous”.

“They don’t talk to Republicans or Conservatives. It’s obvious to anyone who cares about it, ”Grogan added. “What is the harm? You must try.”

But the relationship also works both ways, note Democrats and medical professionals. Often, conservative outlets that protest the administration and question the effectiveness of vaccines don’t bother to contact the White House to have guests book. And when guests attend shows to promote immunization, the experience can often be miserable.

“People were just very angry with me,” recalls Dena Grayson, a doctor who has appeared regularly on Fox since the early days of the pandemic. She recalled how she would get voicemail messages translated by Google to her Google Voice number. “So I see the thing, you are an effing country.” I thought it was a strange [one], it will be interesting. Let’s do it. It was not “country”. It was just minus the ‘ry’.

Grayson said she would receive death threats after the appearances. Still, she’s ready to engage with Fox, if asked, and believes it’s worth the president’s time and effort to do so as well.

“Anything the Biden administration can do to make Fox, at a minimum, tell fewer lies and at least try to release more accurate information – that’s valuable,” she said.





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