By:
May 7, 2021

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson says so many outrageous things that it’s probably better off to ignore much of it. If I wanted, I could probably write a Carlson item every day.

But this week, Carlson said something so irresponsible that even the normally measured Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN blasted him. This week, Carlson started his primetime show saying, “How many Americans have died after taking the COVID vaccines?”

Then he went on to twist some data into making it seem like the vaccine might be dangerous. Of course, he did it in his typical way of, Hey, I’m just asking questions here.

The data Carlson leaned on was from the federal government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Just this week, Gabrielle Settles from Poynter’s PolitiFact had a story with the headline, “Federal VAERS database is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation.”

Carlson certainly proved that. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote the picture Carlson painted was a “highly misleading and cherry-picked one.”

CNN’s “New Day” blasted away at Carlson. Host John Berman asked, “Does he want his viewers to live? … If you watched it, you were left with the impression this guy with no medical degree was suggesting that vaccines are killing thousands of people.”

Gupta, who has become a go-to voice on COVID-19 analysis, said, “It’s so reckless. It’s so dangerous what he’s doing.”

Gupta was just warming up.

“It’s absolutely 100% false,” Gupta said. “The problem is that it continues to stir up this vaccine hesitanc or outright vaccine reluctance. It is so frustrating because we’ve been stutter-starting our way through reporting on this pandemic for a year because, instead of continuing to build a knowledge tree, we’ve had to continuously fact-check and correct misinformation. It’s been so frustrating as a scientific reporter and it’s still happening. In the midst of what is arguably one of the greatest scientific achievements that we’ve had maybe ever, these vaccines, we are still stutter-stopping our way through what is happening here.”

He then added, “We could be in a much better position if it were not for people like Tucker Carlson who continue to embolden this vaccine hesitance. It’s really very irritating.”

There was even more. Check out the Gupta clip here in this Brian Stelter story for CNN.

Stelter also pointed out that some of Carlson’s Fox News colleagues seemed to disapprove of Carlson’s comments by expressing pro-vaccine sentiments.

In one of the more clever responses, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg mocked Carlson by tweeting, “FACT: Every single person who ever died blinked before they died. The vast majority — like 99% — blinked mere seconds before death. And yet, no one talks about this silent killer.”

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.

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