A Reckoning on COVID Coverage
From the very beginning of the COVID epidemic, it was difficult to take any CDC recommendation seriously when overnight it chucked its own coronavirus handbook, which said that masks are not recommended against coronaviruses because the coronavirus particles are too small and because of compliance issues among the general public -- a position based on decades of research -- and instantly advocated mask-wearing, desperately grasping at a news item (not even a crude study) about a single hairdresser and her 30 or so clients to support its stance. This was unbecoming of the CDC. (Its behavior on this issue since hasn’t gotten any better.)
The same goes for the FDA. Who can forget its insulting August 2021 tweet “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” trying to scare intransigents away from relying on ivermectin (IVM) and into getting vaccinated and boosted? The implied narrative was that IVM is for horses and therefore unsafe for humans, a non sequitur because -- unlike the large-volume injectable liquid or paste for horses -- the human dose, commonly used for a variety of ailments, comes in tablet form prescribed by a doctor and obtained from a pharmacy, with the dosage level based on your weight, and with a stellar safety profile comparable to, if not better than, aspirin. The IVM-horse medicine conflation is still on the FDA’s website, where in an article on why you should not use IVM for COVID, I count at least nine references to horses, animals, or large doses. This “horse” manure is reiterated elsewhere on its site. In the current vernacular, this is malinformation.
Recall the fake news media reports of IVM overdoses overwhelming hospitals in rural Oklahoma that had to be retracted. Rolling Stone, one of those that fell for the hoax, clarified in an update that there were 459 IVM overdose cases nationwide in August 2021. That’s around 15 per day, regrettable but hardly of sufficient numbers to overwhelm hospitals. It’s unclear how many of those were of the horse-dose variety, but due to FDA hardball tactics making doctors fear disbarment if they prescribe human tablet-form IVM for COVID and thus making it very hard to get, you could say the FDA itself is responsible for many of these overdoses.
In both the CDC and FDA examples, you didn’t need to be a virologist or epidemiologist to expose the glaring weakness of their argument. Yet no major conservative media did so at the time. One Fox newscaster repeated the FDA’s “You’re not a horse” tweet, but he made no mention that IVM comes in human tablet form which the FDA has made hard to get. Why not? Wouldn’t that have been more “fair and balanced”? Here is a Fox News column from that time. Notice how it adopts the FDA narrative intertwining IVM with horses and large doses, at the end acknowledging (just like the FDA does) that there is an IVM human prescription for certain approved uses, but (like the FDA) never entertaining the possibility of the human prescription being used for COVID, which is the only issue. We could expect this kind of coverage from the MSM but not from conservative media.
There occurred no critical analysis of an entire host of COVID issues, including lockdowns, medical establishment sabotage of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, vaccine side effects, issues with remdesivir, etc. (A notable exception is the Epoch Times, which has offered extensive, scholarly and critical COVID coverage throughout.) Another problem among conservative news outlets was that they routinely, robotically and uncritically printed Reuters and AP articles, taking their COVID reporting at face value.
The Afterword to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s book The Real Anthony Fauci states:
Big pharmaceutical companies are the biggest advertisers on news and television outlets. Their $9.6 billion annual advertising budget buys more than commercials -- it buys obeisance. (In 2014, network president Roger Ailes told me he would fire any of his news show hosts who allowed me to talk about vaccine safety on air. “Our news division,” he explained, “gets up to 70 percent of ad revenues from pharma in nonelection years.”)
It is not just Big Pharma and Fox News:
HHS documents published last year through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the government had purchased advertising to promote vaccine uptake from major news networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, Newsmax, CNN, and MSNBC, as well as legacy media publications including the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Hundreds of news agencies were paid hundreds of millions of dollars by the federal government to advertise the official line that the vaccines were completely safe and effective.
So to Fox add at the least Newsmax, the NYP, and the WSJ among conservative news outlets which got paid by the U.S. government for vaccine ads. If ad revenue dictated at least news division coverage (if not that of intrepid show hosts and columnists), regardless whether it was coerced, pressured, or voluntary, it is fair for us to ask how many got harmed due to biased or suppressed COVID coverage, and how can we trust them on this or any other issue in future. Apologies welcome for starters. Maybe some FOIA requests, congressional investigations, subpoenas and whistleblowers can sort out what exactly the arrangement was.
W. A. Eliot is a pseudonym