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Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto made a personal plea to get vaccinated — but you wouldn't know it from watching Fox News
CNN showcased John King's pro-vax remarks. Fox News buried Cavuto's.
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— Post updated on October 22 and October 24 at bottom —
Two prominent cable news anchors released statements speaking out forcefully on behalf of Covid vaccines this week. The different ways their employers handled them said a lot about CNN and Fox News.
Vaccines became a big topic of conversation on cable news following the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell had multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, and died of complications from Covid despite being fully vaxxed. So while a number of Fox News personalities used his death to try to indict vaccines and vaccine mandates — something I wrote about on Tuesday — in reality the story highlighted the importance of getting vaccinated to protect vulnerable people around you.
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That point was made forcefully by CNN anchor John King in a segment on Tuesday discussing the right-wing spin of Powell’s death — one that culminated in King revealing details about his own health status that weren’t publicly known.
"I'm going to share a secret I've never spoken before: I am immunocompromised. I have multiple sclerosis. So I'm grateful you're all vaccinated,” King said, adding that he’s “grateful” for CNN’s vaccine mandate.
“I worry about bringing it home to my 10-year-old son who can’t get a vaccine,” he continued. “I don’t like the government telling me what to do. I don’t like my boss telling me what to do. In this case, it’s important.”
The above clip racked up over a million views on Twitter, and CNN followed up by showcasing King’s story on Wednesday’s edition of New Day. During that interview, King told host John Berman that Fox News’s coverage of Powell’s death bothered him to the point that he felt compelled to say something.
"I do not understand people who get up in the morning, who are vaccinated themselves, and who willingly lie to get attention, to get clickbait, to get whatever. I do not understand it,” King said. “We can have a debate about vaccine mandates. We should have big debates in America about the big issues in our country. But we should do them based on facts. The vaccines work. And it's not just a million people with MS like me, John. There are millions more like Gen. Powell.”
CNN’s coverage of vaccines and vaccine mandates has generally reflected what we know from science and are told by public health experts, which is that mass vaccination is our best path to ending the pandemic. But, as King alluded to and I’ve written about, much of Fox News’s coverage has politicized the vaccine by downplaying its effectiveness and framing mandates as tyrannical government overreach.
That put Fox in an awkward spot when one of its own anchors spoke out about the importance of vaccination in a statement announcing he had tested positive for Covid.
A Fox News anchor’s Covid case was news everywhere but Fox
In the post-Shep Smith era, Neil Cavuto is the closest thing Fox News has to a moderate weekday host. While clearly a conservative, Cavuto — who’s also a senior vice president and managing editor of business news for Fox News and Fox Business — sometimes strays from the party line by fact-checking Trump’s dangerous medical misinformation or pushing back on Republican lies about the 2020 election. In one memorable instance, he got into a heated exchange with then-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs when he wouldn’t let Dobbs get away with exaggerating Trump’s economic record.
Compared to the likes of Tucker Carlson, Cavuto has been relatively responsible in his coverage of the Covid pandemic. In July, for instance, he defended Dr. Anthony Fauci against Republican efforts to discredit him. He’s also had a number of personal health issues he’s talked about publicly, including cancer and heart surgery. Like King, Cavuto has MS.
Unfortunately, Cavuto is now dealing with Covid too. In a statement released through Fox News Media on Tuesday, Cavuto said he’s “somewhat stunned” but “surviving” because he was vaccinated.
"While I'm somewhat stunned by this news, doctors tell me I'm lucky as well," Cavuto said. "Had I not been vaccinated, and with all my medical issues, this would be a far more dire situation. It's not, because I did and I'm surviving this because I did.”
Cavuto went on to offer a powerful plea for vaccination.
"I hope anyone and everyone gets that message loud and clear. Get vaccinated, for yourself and everyone around you,” he said.
MSNBC, CNN, and a number of other major outlets covered Cavuto’s statement. Fox News, however, ignored it, resulting in an ironic situation where competing cable networks were devoting more time to a story involving a Fox anchor than Fox.
On Wednesday, the host filling in for Cavuto in his usual early afternoon Fox Business time slot, David Asman, announced he was “in for Neil Cavuto,” but didn’t mention that Cavuto has Covid. Fox News’s website also had no coverage of Cavuto’s illness or his statement encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Cavuto’s Covid case was finally acknowledged on the air later Wednesday during his usual afternoon time slot on Fox News, but fill-in host Charles Payne still didn’t mention his colleague’s strong statement supporting vaccination.
It’s unclear how Cavuto contracted Covid, but worth noting that despite the fear-mongering about mandates peddled by hosts, the company requires employees to either be vaxxed or take daily Covid tests. That requirement and other Covid-related mandates are the only safe thing to do for employers requiring in-person work, because unvaccinated people are more likely to spread Covid and thus endanger colleagues who are either immunocompromised or around people who are.
Ultimately, the Powell, King, and Cavuto stories all highlight why getting vaccinated is not just a personal decision. You may be young and healthy and not worried about Covid, but others aren’t so fortunate. As King said on the air, nobody relishes the government or their employer mandating things, but in this instance it’s a life or death issue for many.
A Fox News spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment about why the network has had so little to say about Cavuto on the air or online, but it’s notable that the case he makes for the importance of vaccination is at odds with so much of the network’s Covid coverage. And it speaks volumes that while Fox ignores a pro-vaccination statement from one of its own anchors, it eagerly platforms and glorifies anti-vax comments coming from complete randos.
Indeed, Cavuto’s personal plea for vaccination still hadn’t been mentioned on Fox News or Fox Business by Thursday morning. Fox & Friends instead did a softball interview with an anti-vaxxer.
And Fox Business did a segment promoting Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) anti-mandate legislation.
Update 10/22 — Cavuto will be interviewed by Howard Kurtz on his Fox News show on Sunday.
Update 10/24 — Cavuto used his interview with Kurtz to speak out about the importance of getting vaccinated.
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