November 8, 2021

Is Aaron Rodgers the best quarterback in the National Football League? That’s debatable.

What’s not debatable: He didn’t play Sunday because he has COVID-19, and that’s after lying to the media about being vaccinated for COVID-19.

When Rodgers was asked last August if he had been vaccinated, he told reporters, “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.”

Clearly, Rodgers was trying to be evasive with the media, even though it should be noted that the first word out of his mouth after being asked if he was vaccinated was, “Yeah.” And, for the record, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “immunization” as, “A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.”

The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill wrote, “In retrospect, his disingenuous comments hint at a specific kind of self-centeredness; he seemed to believe he was smarter than everyone else in the room.”

The fact is Rodgers was not vaccinated then and he is not vaccinated now. After the news broke last week that he had contracted COVID-19, Rodgers ran to the radio show hosted by his buddy, former NFL punter Pat McAfee, and tried to play the victim. He said he never lied to the media, ridiculously suggested that the media should have asked him follow-up questions so he would have been more clear about his status, and then bellyached about being in the “crosshairs of the woke mob” and how he was a victim of cancel culture. He then said something about being allergic to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, although the league did not grant him a medical exemption. Rodgers said he followed the NFL’s protocols for unvaccinated players, although that is not true because he did maskless interviews with the media.

All in all, Rodgers lied, broke the COVID-19 protocols, apparently asked for medical advice from podcaster Joe Rogan, missed a game (which his team lost by scoring a measly seven points) and is blaming everyone else for it.

So it’s good to see that the media, especially the often chummy NFL pregame shows, blast Rodgers for his narcissistic actions.

Especially notable was the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show, which did its show Sunday from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Analyst and Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson said he was “disappointed” in Rodgers’ response that he was “immunized” and went on to call Rodgers “selfish.” Hall of Fame player Michael Strahan criticized how Rodgers intentionally misled the media with his “immunized” comment and called Rodgers’ behavior “deceptive” and “wrong.”

But the strongest comments came from Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who said, “I’ll give Aaron Rodgers some advice. It would have been nice if he had just come to the Naval Academy and learned how to be honest. Learned not to lie. Because that’s what you did, Aaron. You lied to everyone. I understand ‘immunized.’ What you were doing was taking stuff that would keep you from getting COVID-19. You got COVID-19. Ivermectin is a cattle dewormer. Sorry, folks, that’s what it is. We are a divided nation politically. We are a divided nation on the COVID-19, whether or not to take the vaccine. And unfortunately, we’ve got players that pretty much think only about themselves. And I’m extremely disappointed in the actions of Aaron Rodgers.”

It’s hard to find anyone, other than some Packers fans and the anti-vax crowd, who are on Rodgers’ side here.

Even the late-night hosts are having fun with Rodgers. CBS’s Stephen Colbert talked about Rodgers’ evasive answer to being vaccinated, saying, “That’s really vague. He better not talk that way in the huddle.” ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel said, “Aaron is a Karen, that’s the fact of the matter.”

In a column for The Washington Post, sports columnist Jerry Brewer wrote, “The Packers can trust his talent and stretch the definition of team to accommodate a player so stubborn and extraordinary. But they cannot trust him, not on matters that require deference or social responsibility or faith in anything other than his big ol’ ego.”

Oh, during his interview with McAfee, Rodgers quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “I would add this to the mix as an aside, but the great MLK said you have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense.”

Strahan said, “There are times to quote Martin Luther King, and this was not one of them.”

MORE FROM POYNTER: Journalists should directly address Aaron Rodgers’ concerns over COVID-19 vaccines and fertility

McAfee’s job

How did Pat McAfee do with his Rodgers interview? Well, let’s be clear about something: McAfee is not a journalist. McAfee is a radio host. He’s an entertainer. Rodgers is his pal and goes on McAfee’s show weekly. And, it’s true that Rodgers often breaks a lot of news on McAfee’s show. But let’s not confuse McAfee with Mike Wallace.

Then again, Awful Announcing’s Sean Keeley made a smart point when he wrote, “For better or worse, Aaron Rodgers showed the world exactly who he is. And that only could have happened on a platform like ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ under the circumstances he’s created. Had he sat down to be interviewed by a more seasoned journalist or a podcaster with a journalistic background, he undoubtedly would have had to face tougher questions and wouldn’t have been able to talk about certain topics unchecked. And that probably sounds like a bad thing to him, but perhaps, in some way, that platform undercuts the depths of where Aaron Rodgers went on Friday, saving him from himself.”

Chris Wallace honored

Fox News’ Chris Wallace. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP, File)

Fox News’ Chris Wallace was honored with the Panetta Institute Award on Saturday at a gala in Pebble Beach, California, for his commitment to “dedicated, responsible and bipartisan journalistic leadership.”

In his remarks, Wallace said, “You know, I get stopped a fair amount these days by people who want to praise me for being fair, for playing it straight. And while I like praise as much as the next person, I have to say, I find it a little bit sad because when I started at The Boston Globe 52 years ago, being fair, playing it straight was the very least that people expected of you. It wasn’t something you got praise for, it was what kept you from getting fired. Now, it’s something that stands out. It’s something that you do get praise for, which I think is a pretty disturbing commentary on the state of our journalism today.”

A year ago, Wallace received the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. This week, CBS News’ Lesley Stahl will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Poynter.

Wait, what?

Isn’t this something? Newsmax, the very-pro Trump, very conservative cable news channel, is implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. According to Mediaite’s Joe DePaolo, the network will require employees to either be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or undergo weekly testing. DePaolo writes, “The move is unlikely to be well-received by the network’s conservative hosts. A number of Newsmax personalities have denounced vaccine mandates on a regular basis over the past several weeks.”

Just last week, Newsmax host Steve Cortes said on air, “There is zero, and I mean zero, moral or ethical obligation for anyone to be compelled to get vaccinated.”

Last week, Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson was pulled off the air after a ridiculous and untrue tweet that said the vaccine contained something in which you could be tracked.

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Insider chief media correspondent Claire Atkinson said, “Quite frankly, the Newsmax story is so unbelievably shocking, they are like ‘Weekly World News’ territory here. Remember the tabloid that would talk about Elvis being alive? And the fact that their White House correspondent is tweeting about a bioluminescent marker in the vaccine just beggars belief. Then you wonder how credible the other opinion columnists at Newsmax are when they’re working with someone who can tweet such garbage. It’s insane.”

Paid in Bitcoin?

I wanted to point out a superb interview on Sunday by CNN’s Dana Bash.

Let me set it up first: Eric Adams, who was elected mayor of New York City last week, tweeted after the election that he would take his first three paychecks in Bitcoin. During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” on Sunday, Adams was asked by Bash if he would encourage businesses in New York City to accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

Adams said, “We’re going to look at it. And we’re going to tread carefully. We’re going to get it right. But there’s something else that I wanted — I wanted to send a signal. This city was the Empire State. We made empires. Now we are destroying empires every day. This is a center of innovation, self-driving cars, drone development, cybersecurity, life sciences. And so when I talked about blockchain and Bitcoins, young people on the street stopped and asked me ‘What is that? What is it about?’ We need to inspire the energy again.”

Then Bash asked the exact right question as a follow-up.

“Can you explain in 30 seconds what it is for people who don’t know?” Bash said, “Can you tell us, tell viewers who aren’t really sure what Bitcoin is?”

Adams said, “Even experts will have a challenge doing that. It is a cryptocurrency. It is a new way of paying for goods and services throughout the entire globe. And that is what we must do, open our schools to teach the technology and teach this new way of thinking when it comes down to paying for goods and services.”

Bash pointed out to Adams that former Obama economic adviser Jason Furman said it was a bad strategy for New York City. To which Adams said, “Well, I respect his opinion. But notice that I’m using my personal money. I lost thousands of dollars in the stock market during the stock market crash in my retirement fund. Volatility is part of some of the investments that we make. And so he has his analysis. I have my analysis — that I want to make sure that this city becomes a center of innovation, no matter what that innovation is. And this is what the human spirit is about, not being afraid to look at every area of innovation as we move our country and city forward.”

It was excellent work and terrific questions from Bash.

Media tidbits

(Courtesy: NBC News)

  • NBC News and MSNBC will have a weeklong series called “Those Who Serve” that will look at those who serve the nation in the armed forces. The series will air across the “Today” show, “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC,, NBC News NOW and MSNBC’s “Into America” podcast.
  • The “CBS Evening News” also will have a weeklong series called “Helping Our Heroes” that will highlight servicemembers and their sacrifices. Correspondent Janet Shamlian will kick off the series tonight with a look at “The Old Glory,” a 62-day relay where thousands of veterans and supporters carry the American flag from the 9/11 Memorial in New York City to Atlanta. Other features this week will include “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell speaking to a 96-year-old veteran from Battle of the Bulge about the importance of honoring veterans and fallen soldiers, and an O’Donnell feature called “Operation Double Eagle,” a nine-week long program to help veterans start a career in golf.
  • As a part of ABC News’ “Rethinking Gun Violence” series, ABC News Live will produce a half-hour special, “American Epidemic: One Nation Under Fire,” which will look at the growing issue of gun violence during the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. ABC News chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas will anchor and look back at his reporting from the past summer when he examined gun violence across the country. “American Epidemic: One Nation Under Fire” airs Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC News Live, the network’s streaming service, and will be available the next day on Hulu.
  • “Saturday Night Live” had a cold opening that featured new addition James Austin Johnson doing his Donald Trump imitation. It’s being praised as the best Trump imitation many have ever seen and I agree wholeheartedly. (I actually saw this clip of him last year and was blown away by how much he sounded like Trump.) Here’s the clip from Saturday’s show.
  • And speaking of “SNL,” Cecily Strong was absolutely brilliant in a “Weekend Update” bit where she was a clown talking about abortion. Here’s the clip that has created quite the buzz and has many speculating if Strong was telling her personal story. It was one of the most powerful moments “SNL” has had in years.
  • Media clip of the day: Batya Ungar-Sargon, the deputy opinion editor of Newsweek, interviewed by Brian Stelter on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and a conversation that talks about “wokeness.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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