Tucker Carlson’s slow transition into one of the leading anti-vaccine voices on television certainly isn’t surprising given his tendency to pander to the most ignorant views in America, but it is terrifying given the size of his audience. By encouraging anti-vaxxers he is seeding the ground for future disaster. We are thankfully finally moving out of the COVID-19 crisis but this will almost certainly not be the last pandemic the world faces. Casting doubt on the safety and efficacy of vaccines will only make it harder to fight the next virus to come along.
In a segment yesterday, Carlson yet again made hay out of the anti-vax sentiments held by some—perhaps even many—of his viewers by whining that some businesses in New York will now require patrons to show proof of vaccination to enter. As usual this right-wing champion of the “free market” really only supports the free market when it aligns neatly with his own ideological views. The moment private businesses choose to do something he doesn’t like, Carlson pounces.
Worst still, he chose to compare this vaccine program with segregation, absurdly exaggerating the difficulties faced by the unvaxxed and grossly downplaying the horrors of segregation.
“Pretty much everybody agreed that segregation was the worst thing this country ever did,” said Carlson, who has likely never given much actual thought to segregation beyond making callous jokes about it at conservative cocktail parties.
“Forcing certain categories of citizens into separate, lesser accommodations, barring them from public places, treating them like lepers or untouchables. That was completely immoral and wrong. We were told that a lot and most of us strongly agreed. It was wrong,” Carlson went on.
“So imagine our confusion today looking out across the country. The very same people, literally the very same people, who just the other day told us that segregation was immoral are now enforcing segregation,” Carlson said. “Should we be surprised? Probably not but we still are. Just this morning The New York Times informed us that unless you can prove you have taken the injection that the Democratic Party demands you take, you are no longer permitted in bars, comedy clubs, even some dance competitions in the state of New York. You’re too dirty to appear in public.”
His bit about the vaccine being an “injection that the Democratic Party demands” is particularly alarming as it’s one of the most overt politicizations of vaccination imaginable. He’s telling his viewers—who he has groomed to despise the Democratic Party as an evil, anti-American organization—that getting the vaccine is bowing to the will of their political enemies. He’s pushing them to reflexively reject the lifesaving measure on purely partisan grounds.
“You’re not welcome near normal people,” Carlson went on, stoking the flames of grievance. “Wanna watch the NBA playoffs in person? You had better be vaccinated to do that. Otherwise, the New York Knicks will bar you from Madison Square Garden. You can still go see a baseball game if you want to but be warned you’ll be sitting in your own roped-off section, marinating in your shame with the other disobedient bad people.”
“Medical Jim Cross has come to America. If we still had water fountains, the unvaccinated would have separate ones,” insisted Carlson, taking his vile argument to its absolute nadir in conclusion.
There are of course no similarities between the brutality inflicted on Black people under Jim Crow laws and preventing anti-science conspiracy theorists from spreading a deadly virus, but Carlson likely knows that. He also knows that stoking this kind of culture war wedge issue, while incredibly dangerous, is also proving incredibly profitable for himself and Fox News.
Tucker Carlson: "Medical Jim Crow has come to America." pic.twitter.com/wEpYwlBSfj
— Kat Abu (@abughazalehkat) June 2, 2021
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.