A progressive political action committee on Wednesday launched a petition to ban Fox News from airing on all U.S. military installations, blaming the channel and some of its high-profile hosts for stubbornly low COVID-19 vaccination rates among troops.
The group VoteVets, which works to elect liberal veterans to public office, took specific aim at controversial Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. Mr. Carlson has been at odds with Pentagon leaders in recent months after segments in which he seemed to suggest the U.S. military has become more concerned with diversity and political correctness than winning wars.
But the VoteVets petition steered clear of those issues. Instead, it took aim at Mr. Carlson‘s ambivalent comments about COVID-19 vaccines and specifically blasted a recent segment in which the Fox host said that Democrats want to make life difficult for the unvaccinated.
Despite new polling data this week that show vaccine skepticism dropping among Fox viewers, VoteVets still cast the network as dangerous for public health.
“Tucker and the rest of the Fox News crew are preaching dangerous misinformation about vaccine safety, putting lives at stake, and actually hurting our military readiness in the process,” VoteVets said in an email announcing its anti-Fox News campaign.
“You see, vaccination rates among active-duty troops are far too low right now, largely due to right-wing disinformation like the kind Tucker Carlson spews on a daily basis,” the group said. “It’s leaving our troops exposed to catching and spreading COVID-19. Our military can’t afford risks like that — it hurts troop readiness.”
But a new Morning Consult survey released Wednesday actually shows that vaccine skepticism among Fox News is dropping rapidly after several notable network personalities have encouraged Americans to get COVID-19 shots. About 27% of Fox viewers say they “probably or definitely” won’t get vaccinated, the poll shows, down from 30% just a week ago.
In mid-March, 37% of Fox News viewers said they wouldn’t get a vaccine, the Morning Consult report says. Regular users of social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram are more reluctant than Fox viewers to get a vaccine, the poll shows.
While Mr. Carlson has taken the brunt of the blame from those who cast Fox News as an anti-vaccine voice, the host has on numerous occasions said he‘s not urging viewers to avoid the shots.
“We’re not saying there is no benefit to the vaccine, there may well be profound benefits to the vaccine. Our mind is open and has been from the first day,” he said on his July 19 program. “We never encouraged anyone to take or not to take the vaccine. Obviously, we’re not doctors.”
As for the military, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said recently that he’ll move “expeditiously” to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all U.S. troops, following a recent directive from President Biden.
Just over 1 million troops are fully vaccinated, according to recent Pentagon figures. That number includes active-duty forces, reserves and National Guard troops.
As of June 30, about 68% of active-duty troops had gotten at least one shot, officials said.