In an appearance on CNN on Wednesday, Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said, “That’s just a typical crazy conspiracy theory. Why would we not tell people if it doesn’t work?” He pointed to the “overwhelming data” that the three vaccines that have been approved for emergency use, with tens of thousands of people in a clinical trial “with an overwhelming signal of efficacy. So I don’t have any idea of what he is talking about.”
Fauci is the longtime director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
On his show on Wednesday, Carlson keyed in on the FDA and CDC recommendation that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be paused after six people experienced blood clots, including one person who died, out of almost 7 million vaccinated with the manufacturer’s single shot dose.
Carlson said of vaccinations, “We are not against it on principle. Like every American we are grateful, but before we take this one, a few questions about it, there are two things we like to know and neither one has anything to do with how many professional athletes or Netflix stars are vaccinated. We don’t care. First question is, is it safe? The second question is, is it effective, safe and effective, that’s all that matters.”
Carlson then went on to question why CDC guidance is to continue wearing masks even after vaccinations.
“At some point – no one’s asking this, but everyone should be – what is this about?” Carlson said. “If the vaccines work, why are vaccinated people still banned from living normal lives? Honestly, what’s the answer to that? It doesn’t make any sense at all. If the vaccine is effective, there’s no reason for people who’ve received it to wear masks or avoid physical contact. So maybe it doesn’t work, and they’re just not telling you that. You’d hate to think that, especially if you’ve gotten two shots. But what’s the other potential explanation? We can’t think of one.”
Carlson’s comments have triggered pushback before, as public health officials worry that significant numbers of Americans won’t get vaccinated and jeopardize efforts to achieve herd immunity. His segment on Tuesday stirred up a greater-than-usual reaction, including not jus Fauci but criticism from hosts on The View and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson.
Fauci said that the comment was “certainly not helpful to the public health of this nation or even globally. I don’t want to get into arguments about Tucker Carlson, but to me it is counter to what we are trying to accomplish, to protect the safety and the health of the American public.” In a Senate hearing last month, Fauci sparred with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over the continued mask wearing. Paul called it “theater,” but Fauci said that mask wearing will slow the spread of Covid variants.
Fauci also was asked about vaccine hesitancy, including among those who want to wait and see.
Fauci said that “it is a natural instinct to want to wait and see. But what you tell people is let’s look at the data, OK? What we have right now is 120, close to 130 million people have already received at least one dose of this. That’s a lot of people….So I think we have had enough wait and see. Let’s do it.”
Carlson hasn’t said whether he has received the vaccine or plans to get it, but other personalities including John Roberts, Janice Dean, Tyrus, Larry Kudlow, Bill Hemmer, Dana Perino, Jesse Waters and Sean Hannity have said that they are getting the vaccine or plan to get it.
The network also has pushed back against notions that it is anti-vaccination, as a number of its personalities appeared in a PSA urging viewers to get the vaccine. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo, former President Donald Trump told viewers that “I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me frankly.” Harris Faulkner also hosted a town hall in February in which medical experts answered questions about the vaccine.
Last week, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow cautioned against dismissing concerns that people have about the vaccine. She said that “I feel like there is sort of a discourse in the American media, not the conservative media, which is still mired in all sorts of disinformation and nonsense about Covid, including about Covid vaccines. But in the rest of the media — left and center and everything but hard right crazy media — I feel like there has been a lot of patronizing, snobby discussion about people who don’t really want to get the vaccine. I will just tell you. People in my personal life, people in my marching order. My peers. People I have a lot of respect and in common with who feel oogie or a little reluctant to get the vaccine.”