“Fox” in this case refers to the entire Fox Corporation, which includes but isn’t limited to Fox News.
The gotcha here has to do with the fact that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have become the two most prominent just-asking-questions vaccine skeptics on American television. They’re not anti-vaxxers; to my knowledge, no one at Fox News has ever flatly discouraged viewers from getting the shot. But if you’re a regular Tucker or Laura viewer getting a steady diet of “concerns” about the vaccines with little airtime offered to experts who might ease those concerns, you’d be nuts not to come away at least vaccine-hesitant.
But is this really a gotcha? A “vaccine passport” traditionally understood prohibits access to a location unless you’ve been vaccinated. Fox isn’t doing that. What they’re doing is following the CDC guidance. If you’re unvaccinated then you have to wear a mask at work, keep your distance from others, and fill out a daily screening questionnaire to gauge if you might have been exposed to the virus recently. Whereas if you’ve had your shots you can take your mask off, socialize as you see fit, and skip the screening. No one’s barred from the premises or segregated from others due to status. It’s a matter of some having to take precautions while others don’t.
Fox’s critics are accusing them of hypocrisy, but have any Fox hosts gone as far as to say it’s unfair that the unvaccinated have to take extra steps to try to limit infection? Tucker once spent a segment hyperventilating about vaccine passports potentially creating a “medical Jim Crow” system by forcibly physically segregating the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. But again, Fox isn’t telling unvaxxed employees not to come to work or to stay in some special area of the building. They’re merely acknowledging the fact that vaccinated people aren’t at high risk of getting infected or of infecting others. (At least they weren’t before the Delta variant arrived.)
CNN has more details on the policy:
Fox employees, including those who work at Fox News, received an email, obtained by CNN Business, from the company’s Human Resources department in early June that said Fox had “developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status.”
The system allows for employees to self-report to Fox the dates their shots were administered and which vaccines were used…
“Thank you for providing FOX with your vaccination information,” the email said. “You no longer are required to complete your daily health screening through WorkCare/WorkMatters.”…
While the “Fox Clear Pass” is voluntary for employees, and other companies have similar tools, it is still remarkable, given how vocal Fox’s top talent has been in criticizing the concept of vaccine passports.
Here’s the actual memo to employees. Click the image to enlarge:
Asked for comment, a Fox News spokesperson referred me to this June FOX memo on the Fox Clear Pass system pic.twitter.com/1kRG68zplc
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) July 19, 2021
I’m sure Tucker has a rant in him somewhere about how it’s the worst civil-rights infringement since slavery for employers to ask their employees if they’re vaccinated or not, but Fox isn’t requiring employees to answer that question. You can decline to respond and still come to work. It’s just that you’ll be treated as unvaccinated if you do — which means mask, distancing, daily screening.
For all the justified criticism of Carlson and Ingraham, it should be noted that other Fox hosts have promoted the vaccine. The network cut a pro-vax PSA back in January. Steve Doocy in particular has encouraged people to get it, as recently as this morning:
Doocy: 99% of people who are dying are unvaccinated
Kilmeade: That's their choice!
Doocy: They don't want to die. The admin and gov't says mask mandates are to protect the unvaccinated
Kilmeade: That's not their job, it's not their job to protect anybody! pic.twitter.com/NsP2IcMnCX
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) July 19, 2021
Contributors have also urged viewers to get their shots:
Hearing crazy talk on cable TV right now about folks having the constitutional right not to get vaccinated.
Yes (they may be dopey) but they do have that right.
We too have rights: to deny the unvaccinated access to our home, school or business.
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) July 19, 2021
There seems to be a concerted effort today by Fox's daytime news shows to promote the vaccines to its audience.
Dr. Marc Siegel says "the Delta variant needs to be a wake-up call to get vaccinated."
Anchor John Roberts then directs viewers to the government vaccine website. pic.twitter.com/T5b21nXCfe
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 19, 2021
I wonder if the conspicuous pro-vax rhetoric on the network today was partly Fox News management trying to get ahead of the fact that the news about “Fox Clear Pass” was about to break. Anyway, it’s also no secret that Fox took steps to keep on-air hosts broadcasting remotely, from home studios, for their own safety during the pandemic before vaccines were widely available. Greg Gutfeld even complained on the air back in April that he and others on the network complained about businesses being shut down and yet their own bosses were keeping them from congregating in the studio despite the fact that they were immunized. (They’ve since returned to the studio.) And of course Fox’s bureau in L.A. is complying with the county’s new indoor mask mandate.
Fox News management has never pretended that COVID wasn’t serious or that the vaccines safe and effective when it comes to their own employees, in other words. They’ve just looked the other way when some of the people on their airwaves, especially A-listers, have questioned that conventional wisdom in the interest of telling righty viewers what they want to hear.
The result is clear.
Here’s Ryan Grim, who broke the news about the Clear Pass this morning. I’m underwhelmed by the claim that this is some major gotcha but it’s broadly true that the network brass are much more diligent about practicing what the experts preach than their own primetime hosts are and they seem A-OK with that. As for the question of why the unvaccinated should have to take precautions around the vaccinated, we may have to revisit the assumption that the vaxxed are at no risk from the unvaxxed in the age of the Delta variant. But Grim’s also right that letting the unvaccinated take as many risks as they want is destined to create chains of transmission that end up devastating people who weren’t so reckless. Fox is doing what little it can to reduce infections while avoiding, ahem, “medical Jim Crow.”