'Doom Doctor' Hotez: "Laura Ingraham really went after me last week" - "it’s a QAnon dog whistle"

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It might be time to ease off listening to some of the doctors and scientists making a name for themselves during the coronavirus pandemic. There is a really good example in the news this weekend. Dr. Peter Hotez in Houston, a darling of local and national news outlets, has some hot takes when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine skepticism.

Dr. Hotez has an impressive resume which includes being “founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also Director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair in Tropical Pediatrics, and University Professor of Biology at Baylor University.” He and his team have developed a COVID-19 vaccine that is set to be manufactured in India. So, he is frequently a guest on cable news shows to deliver his comments about the pandemic. He was interviewed by a writer with the Houston Chronicle. The article ran online Friday and was updated Saturday. This typically would not be noteworthy except for the fact that his clear political partisanship comes through loud and clear. The piece is eye-opening.

Hotez was a frequent critic of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic and then the vaccine distribution rollout. He even did some criticizing of the Biden administration in its early days. Now, though, the mask has clearly dropped and he takes to using a term he claims is used by NPR on why vaccination participation has not been as robust as he would like – it’s the fault of “white Republicans”, you see.

The interview begins on a cautiously optimistic note. Hotez says we’ll be ‘pretty damn close’ to normal by summer. Good news, indeed. In general, it’s a mixed bag among various states and the level of the virus in them. Some states, like Texas, are humming right along and doing well, while Michigan is in really bad shape right now. In fact, Michigan is a part of a fourth wave that some of the experts have been warning us about. Most of the blame is put on the B.1.1.7 variant which originated in the United Kingdom. Also, the number of younger people becoming infected is on the rise. He is hopeful that the PfizerBioNTech vaccine will be approved for emergency use for 12- to 15-year-olds.

We are going to be in a much better place by the summer. Our quality of life is going to improve dramatically. I don’t know that it’ll be completely normal, but it’s going to be pretty damn close to it by the summer.

It’s just a matter of being mindful for the months of April and May — not being reckless, having that situational awareness and trying to get everybody to the other side.

I actually thought we would be here, at this place, sooner. But then the B.1.1.7 variant really accelerated. And as I said, in terms of transmissibility and severity of illness, it’s like a different virus.

The interview took a turn, though, when he began addressing “vaccine-hesitant” groups. Hotez applauded black and brown community leaders for getting the word out on the importance of getting vaccinated. Then he pointed a finger at “white Republicans” and the objections to vaccine passports. White Republicans get “really worked up” about them.

Now, we still have the high rates of vaccine hesitancy among what the PBS NewsHour recalls “white Republicans.” This comes out of this health freedom movement that’s been so awful here in Texas over the last few years around childhood vaccinations.

We’re going to have to work on that. I’ve been trying to go back on conservative news outlets, reaching out to them. The big concern that I hear from them is there’s this kind of obsession about vaccine mandates. We’ve kind of got to get around that.

I say to them, “Look, we don’t even have the vaccines here to mandate. So except for a couple of specific examples, I don’t see vaccine mandates as a big issue.” And then they still get really worked up about vaccine passports.

That led to an attack on conservative media, in particular Fox News, and some of the hosts who are ” getting jazzed up” about vaccine mandates and passports. He suggests backing off of specifically talking about mandates, especially since vaccine supplies are still somewhat limited.

But beyond that, we have to proceed slowly because it could have a backlash. These conservative groups are really getting jazzed up about this. You see it on Fox News: Some of the anchors are just really revving this issue up. You see it on social media outlets like Twitter as well.

They have been — although Laura Ingraham really went after me last week on Fox News, so I don’t know that they’re invite me back anytime soon. But we’ll see. I don’t know what that was about.

She had my picture up with Tony Fauci and Vivek Murthy and called us — I don’t know — “the merchants of something or other” — “medical merchants of doom” or something like that. It’s ridiculous.

The problem is that it’s a QAnon dog whistle. It gets people worked up. After that, I got a couple of hate emails that were very QAnon-like. [Laughs.] As if my job’s not hard enough.

I don’t know what’s going on with Fox News these days. Even the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the Murdochs and News Corp has been putting out some outrageous stuff — not so much the main paper, but the Wall Street Journal opinion section. I don’t know why they’re doing it. It’s hurtful to the country.

That’s quite a leap, right? Fox News is hurtful to the country but apparently, all the liberal networks are just fine. How about when the other networks were carrying COVID-19 vaccine skepticism from the likes of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, while Trump was in office? Was Hotez complaining then? Hotez tossed in QAnon and dog whistles for good measure, just in case you didn’t get his message clearly. Is it any wonder why so many Americans are turning off the experts and making their own common sense decisions? Hotez could have given all his comments without inserting politics into the subject but the temptation was just too great. There are a whole lot of white Republicans in Texas. I’m not going out on a limb by saying most of us are getting vaccinated.