Tucker Carlson is Wrong About Vaccines

Sowing doubt about the Coronavirus vaccine is dangerous

Mark Weiss
Dec 19, 2020 · 6 min read
Fox News host Tucker Carlson | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I’ve written several times before about Tucker Carlson — in fact, he was the subject of my first piece here on And in the intervening months, I’ve covered a lot of Tucker’s misadventures, including his lies about immigration, his lies about impeachment, his lies about income inequality, and most recently, his lies about infectious diseases. Seriously, how does he lie like he’s running out of time? The man is nonstop!

But none of the arguments I referenced above, however absurd, compares to the dangerous rhetoric he spewed in the two most recent episodes of his nightly dark-carnival-esque television show. Speaking about the FDA approval and subsequent distribution of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Tucker said this on December 17th:

He continued to highlight an isolated incident in which two healthcare workers in Alaska had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, using that event to sow doubts about the vaccine and its rollout effort: “So, how are the rest of us supposed to respond to a marketing campaign like this?” he asked. “Well, nervously.” Tucker then insinuated that the CDC is coordinating with Twitter to hide the truth about the vaccine’s risks from the public.

Now might be a good time to point out that experts warned in advance that some people would react poorly to the vaccine, and that media coverage should not serve to undermine public confidence in it as a result. A December 16th article from featured commentary from Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, who warned that

In that same article, the author writes that Dr. James Hamblin, a physician and lecturer in public health policy at Yale University, said the following in an apparent message to the more conspiracy-minded Americans:

Of course, Tucker used his platform to showcase a masterclass in the very type of journalistic malpractice about which the article warned.

Now, there is absolutely no evidence that these reactions were unexpected nor that health officials tried to cover them up. Experts anticipated the possibility of allergic reactions to vaccine — it is for this reason that they require recipients to stay on-site fifteen minutes after its administration; should an adverse reaction occur, healthcare workers are immediately available to treat it.

In addition, the health officials who administered the vaccine in Alaska told the who broke the original story, that they were sharing the information “for the sake of transparency.” And while Tucker implies that the media are hiding the name of the patients to prevent further investigation, revealing their identities would be a blatant violation of HIPAA laws. Healthcare workers reveal patients’ names, even if they wanted to.

But I fear that I’ve already spent too much time debunking Tucker’s arguments from that segment. Because during his December 18th broadcast, the day after he needlessly raised doubts about the risks of the Coronavirus vaccine, Tucker made perhaps the most unhinged argument I’ve ever heard on a national television show.

I don’t mean to sensationalize, but this is not exaggeration on my part. Here is what Tucker said on about the CDC’s plan to distribute the vaccine:

This is, to use the appropriate public health terminology, absolute bullshit. In fact, Tucker is wrong in so many ways in just that one paragraph that I hardly know where to begin.

For one, let’s start with the factual inaccuracies. Tucker suggests here that essential workers will receive the vaccine before the elderly. This is not true. It was merely an idea floated by some on the CDC’s advisory panel in November as a means of addressing the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color.

See, Tucker left out the key contextual detail that Black Americans, for example, are almost three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. If the vaccine were to be deployed in a manner that prioritizes people of color, it would only be to offset the structural inequalities that have led to such disparities. It would not constitute eugenics, using even the broadest definition possible.

Secondly — and I apologize for the slight pedantries here — Tucker uses a rhetorical flourish that makes his initial claim untrue. He asserts that the prioritization of essential workers was made “entirely” on the basis of race. But that’s not true, is it? Even a cursory reading of the initial proposal shows that race was one of many considerations for prioritizing essential workers, another being that they “are out there putting themselves at risk to allow the rest of us to socially distance.” These are the words of Beth Bell, a researcher at the University of Washington and chair of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), explaining in rather clear language that the higher risk associated with being a frontline worker warrants priority in receiving the vaccine.

Nevertheless, if we disregard all of the above, Tucker is still wrong. His claim is predicated on the idea that essential workers have taken priority over healthcare workers in the distribution of the vaccine, which is flatly incorrect. As the CDC explains, the panel officially suggested that

But notice my word choice — I say that the panel “suggested,” not “commanded” these things. This is because the CDC has no authority over how states distribute their vaccines. In any case, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that almost every state in the country has adhered to the CDC recommendations in this first phase of vaccine distribution. And of them, to my knowledge, have prioritized vaccines for essential workers over the elderly.

So, yes. Tucker is wrong about almost everything related to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. He was wrong in his assessment of the risks it poses, which he articulated on December 17th, and he was wrong that the distribution plan constitutes “eugenics” against white people.

Nevertheless, it is good to hear that Tucker is gravely concerned with the idea of eugenics. Because when a nurse who worked at a Georgia prison filed a whistleblower complaint against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), alleging that the agency performed forced hysterectomies on migrant women, what did Tucker say?

Nothing. He did not once talk about the story on his show, which tells you all you need to know about his supposed opposition to eugenics.

Tucker Carlson is, evidently, a dishonest grifter who makes no commitment to truth (his legal team has even argued as much in court). But in the case of COVID-19, his rhetoric is dangerous and might even lead to viewers losing their lives.

We have an obligation to call out his lies and counteract them when we can.

The Polis

Thought-provoking articles on politics, philosophy, and…

Mark Weiss

Written by

Book lover, avid reader, and aspiring coffee addict. Confronting the world with evidence and empathy.

The Polis

The Polis

Thought-provoking articles on politics, philosophy, and policy

Mark Weiss

Written by

Book lover, avid reader, and aspiring coffee addict. Confronting the world with evidence and empathy.

The Polis

The Polis

Thought-provoking articles on politics, philosophy, and policy

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