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FILE - In this March 2, 2017, file photo Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio, in New York. Carlson is being criticized for suggesting that no one should be surprised by the killing of two demonstrators during social unrest in Kenosha, Wis. Authorities “stood back and watched Kenosha burn,” he said on Fox News Channel on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2020. “So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Among last week's harvest of factoids I unearthed looking for other factoids is that next month — Oct. 7, to be precise — marks the 25th anniversary of the birth of Fox News.

As for gifts, what should we get for the network to mark such a significant milepost?

Dunno. What has it gotten us, other than killed, I mean.

Look, this won't exactly be the first essay suggesting that Fox News is getting people killed with its disinformation on the vaccine, on masks, on science, on the virus.

At the journalism school I went to, I don't remember any of the professors saying explicitly, "Look, try not to get anybody killed," but I left there feeling confident that it had at least been implied.

And Fox News knows it's getting people killed, which is why its audience is suddenly watching a crisp about-face from some of its more prominent personalities.

"Please take COVID seriously; I can't say it enough," said Sean Hannity, the prime time blatherer who has been described as Donald Trump's Svengali. "Enough people have died. We don't need any more death. ... Take it seriously. It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated."

Morning show co-host Steve Doocy, suddenly self-aware that his network's interminable anti-vax messaging was effectively killing off its own audience, said: "Look, the pandemic right now is really just with the people who have not been vaccinated. Ninety-nine percent of the people who died have not been vaccinated. If you have the chance, get the shot — it will save your life."

On Labor Day, with many of their regular stars on holiday, the cable news channels were running out the jayvee teams. I decided to flip on Fox to see whether they were still stuck on the critical race theory outrage, the open borders scandal or the Afghanistan dereliction, but COVID had the stage for the moment.

Over another chyron setting up Dr. Anthony Fauci as a national punching bag, the anchor was introducing a reporter for a story about confusion over COVID booster shots by saying that when it comes to the vaccine, the White House messaging is still unclear.

I guess when the president of the United States goes on television and says, "Please, please, please get the vaccine," that's somehow unclear.

For COVID advice that's perfectly clear, one would suppose you'd have to tune into Tucker Carlson, Fox's highest-rated host. No one sews more distrust in the vaccine or eviscerates public health policy on masks than the man whom Variety awarded the media label "frozen food heir turned paleo-conservative firebrand pundit." If there's an origin story as to why nearly half of Republicans are unlikely to get the vaccine, Tucker Carlson directed it.

The irony there is that it was Carlson who in March 2020 left his Gulf Coast mansion to drive across Florida, owing to a deep sense of "moral obligation," to meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago for the express purpose of convincing him to take the emerging coronavirus more seriously. Without that two-hour meeting, there might never have been Operation Warp Speed, the Trump-accelerated vaccine ramp-up that gains reliably over-the-top praise on Fox as it just as reliably instructs its viewers not to take it.

Trump, Murdoch, Hannity, all vaccinated. Carlson, asked if he was vaccinated by Time's Gillian Laub, called that question "super vulgar," then asked Laub, "What's your favorite sexual position, and when did you last engage in it?"

So if you think of it, take a moment Oct. 7 to reflect on the 25-year-old Fox News, in its childhood just the favorite channel of Dick Cheney, then a lascivious post-pubescent entity always getting sued for sexual harassment. Who knew it would turn into a serial killer?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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