White House officials said they recognize the need to reach Fox’s audience and insist they make an effort to do so. All in all, 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 newscasts hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said the administration did not “shy away from calling” misinformation and pushing media platforms “to provide the right information to their viewers on public health issues.” All outlets, including Fox, he added, needed “to strengthen and ensure that their coverage provides accurate, objective information about COVID-19 and the vaccines.”
But Biden’s aides claim that aggressive attacks on Fox to help push vaccine conspiracies would be a counterproductive way to reach its audience. Instead, they have sought to engage more broadly with the network on their coverage of vaccine trust. Their efforts have included a private briefing earlier this year between Fox producers and senior White House officials to discuss accurate, informed coverage of Covid-19 vaccine intake, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
“We’ve been in touch with every network and many, many media outlets covering Covid-19 to make sure people have accurate information, to express concerns when we have them,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. to journalists Tuesday.
White House aides said they are encouraged by signs that some daytime Fox hosts and others in conservative media are taking vaccines more seriously. On Monday night, Neera Tanden, a senior White House adviser, took the unusual step of encouraging his followers to retweet a clip of Sean Hannity embracing vaccines on his program.
But Democrats outside the administration say Biden’s team needs to go much further. They want them to place officials more frequently on Fox, especially in the evenings when disinformation and even fear confusion surrounding the vaccines has been most prevalent.
“At night shows current challenges,” said Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who popularized an approach everywhere he helped steer Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic presidential campaign in 2020. “But what is the goal here? We are not trying to win a political argument. Our goal here is to provide people with critical public health information and facts and save lives. And if the only shows they line up for are Tucker [Carlson]Laura [Ingraham] and [Sean] Hannity, so just go where they are and the case. ”
Although the pandemic has made efforts much higher, Democrats have long been threatened by the extent to which they should engage Fox News. In the fall of 2009, Obama’s White House went to war with the network amid growing frustration over then-host Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories. They excluded Chris Wallace from a round of the president’s Sunday show interviews and blacklisted Fox from a background briefing by the Treasury Department.
“We need to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” said Obama’s communications director Anita Dunn, who now serves as senior adviser to Biden. “[W]e do not have to pretend that this is how legitimate news organizations behave. ”
Eventually, the White House moved back after Fox News’ competitors rallied to its side. Men animus hanging through Obama’s time in office, and it’s that day today. Bill Burton, who was deputy press secretary at the time of the Obama-Fox fracas, said he believes Fox is “worse now than it was then.” He suggested that the FCC “consider them” a “danger to the country.”
A Fox News executive said the FCC has no authority over cable channels and called the proposal “grossly ignorant and misinformed.”
Few Democrats say they believe the solution to Fox comes in the form of government officials. But they are also not pollyannaish about engaging constructively with the network.
Democrats’ anger over Fox’s Covid coverage has risen too late, as the Delta variant has spread across the country, and as the administration’s own data show that the unvaccinated make up 99.5 percent of recent Covid-19 deaths. Liberal watchdog Media Matters analyzed two weeks of programming on the network, concluding that hosts and guests “repeatedly feared and downplayed the need for continued vaccination campaigns.” Overall report found that a majority of its segments on vaccinations, 60 percent, contained votes that undermined confidence in the shots.
In response, a Fox News representative pointed to recent examples of several personalities on the air on the news and opinion page promoting the vaccine. the network’s vaccinated PSA and the channel’s vaccine finder tool, which helps people find vaccination sites closest to them.
But in recent days, “Fox & Friends” is co-hosting Brian Kilmeade erroneously said that the vaccine is not nearly as effective against the Delta variant “as they say,” and breaks with his morning colleague, Steve Doocy, who noted that the vaccine has been shown to be extremely helpful in keeping those infected with the variant live and outside the hospital.
Carlson, Ingraham and their guests have gone further and have given misleading warnings about possible disadvantages, even dangers, of being vaccinated and over-government by the government in an attempt to find unvaccinated Americans to encourage them to get the shot. Carlson has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of not telling the truth, most recently when he pushed back on CDC director Rochelle Walensky to say that the vast majority of new cases arose with unvaccinated people, a statement backed by government data. And while Hannity made positive comments about vaccinations on Monday night, they were also squeezed between segments that raised doubts about the vaccine.
Matt Bennett, a senior official in the Democratic group Third Way and a regular Fox News guest, said he did not see anyone upside in the White House urging the network to push disinfection of the vaccine. “Facebook may be responding to pressure from the White House with constructive action,” he said. “Fox will probably do the opposite.”
And while he’s happy to engage with Fox’s daytime hosts, he predicted it would backfire if the White House were to put officials – even Covid task force health experts – on the evening programs.
“The problem with people like Hannity, and this applies to the entire primetime lineup, is that they don’t let you talk, they yell at you, they get the last word by offering a blizzard of bullshit,” Bennett said.
For those 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 who hosted Newsmax, said he has repeatedly tried to book Anthony Fauci – the president’s top Covid adviser – on his program, only to be rejected. He has had former Democratic representative Barney Frank in his place.
Joe Grogan, Trump’s former director of the White House Internal Affairs Council and an early member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, called Biden White House’s views on conservative media “contemptible.”
“They are not talking to Republicans or Conservatives. It’s obvious to anyone who pays attention, “Grogan added. “What is the damage? You must try. ”
But the relationship also works both ways, Democrats and health professionals note. Conservative outlets that target the administration and question the effectiveness of the vaccines often do not bother to reach the White House, where guests can book. And when guests go to shows to promote vaccination, the experience can often prove miserable.
“People were just very angry with me,” recalled Dena Grayson, a doctor who used to show up regularly on Fox and return to the earliest days of the pandemic. She reminded how she would get Google translated voice messages on her Google Voice number. “So I can see that you are an ‘effing country’. I thought well it’s weird [one], this will be interesting. Let’s do it. It was not ‘land’. It was just minus ‘reputation’. ””
Grayson said she would receive death threats after appearances. Still, she’s willing to engage with Fox if asked, and thinks it’s worth the president’s time and energy to do the same.
“Anything and everything the Biden administration can do to get Fox to tell the least lies and at least try to spread more accurate information – that’s valuable,” she said.