Tucker Carlson dedicated the opening segment of his Monday evening show to a spectacular misrepresentation of government guidelines concerning COVID-19 therapeutics, attempting to convince his audience that white people are facing discrimination.
The eight-minute segment contained a number of whoppers, among them that “nobody seemed to care” about white people who had to wait for vaccines in early 2021 because the shots were prioritized for the elderly and essential workers. Carlson spouted the lie that “whites would go last in the COVID vaccine queue regardless of need.” But vaccines were less the focus of his rant, perhaps because most people know they have been widely available across the nation since spring. Instead, the Fox host homed in on therapeutics ― drugs that can help a person recover more quickly from COVID-19 illness.
It’s a timely topic. Americans are being hospitalized with COVID-19 at record rates now. However, Carlson failed to note that people who get very sick and are hospitalized with severe coronavirus symptoms largely have one thing in common: They are not vaccinated.
Vaccines still give us the best protection against the virus, and they are plentiful.
But Carlson skimmed over that fact to falsely claim that white people are not able to get coronavirus therapeutics based on their race.
He cited an article posted on the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative political website funded by a billionaire hedge fund executive, reading one line aloud: “In New York, racial minorities are automatically eligible for scarce COVID-19 therapeutics, regardless of age or underlying conditions.”
Carlson then added a handful of false claims: “It doesn’t matter what kind of health they’re in. All that matters is their skin color. Whites don’t qualify.”
To be clear: Race is one of several factors doctors might use in determining a course of treatment for COVID-19. It is not the only factor; health care providers are instructed to consider the whole picture of a patient’s health when treating them. Carlson mentions how research during the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the virus disproportionately affects older people, which is true. It also disproportionately affects Black people and other non-white groups.
Based on when a person got sick and how sick they are, certain therapeutics might not be helpful. It depends on the drug and the individual.
It’s worth pointing out that Carlson has the highest-rated program on cable news. His show attracts an average of 3.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen analysis.
On Monday night, he gave them an alarmingly inaccurate message, telling his audience that the government is “withholding medicine from you” because “your ancestors did bad things, or people who looked like your ancestors did bad things.”
He subsequently invoked the image of a Black man ― a hypothetical “young Haitian man” ― to drive his point home.
Carlson asked viewers to consider a scenario in which the undocumented Haitian immigrant crosses the Southern border with symptomatic COVID-19, somehow makes it up to New York the following day for treatment “and get[s] preference over an elderly American citizen purely because of his appearance.”
(The example echoed conservatives’ breathless Haitian migrant fear-mongering last fall after a devastating earthquake exacerbated social unrest on the island nation at the same time Haitians who had migrated to South and Central American nations after a previous earthquake were trying to flee instability in their new homes. The influx triggered mass deportations.)
“The Haitian has not suffered from systemic racism in America, whatever that is. He just got here. But he goes to the front of the line anyway,” Carlson said. The Fox host makes himself out to be a reasonable guy by allowing, “that’s not a criticism of the Haitian.”
But what he’s saying is, again, not true.
“No one in New York is being turned away from lifesaving treatment because of their race or any demographic identifier,” New York Health Department spokesperson Erin Silk told HuffPost.
The Washington Free Beacon article Carlson mentions specifically discusses sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment, and Paxlovid, the new Pfizer pill that fights coronavirus. It cites a New York State Health Department bulletin with recommendations on criteria health care providers should use when deciding whether to prescribe treatments like sotrovimab or Paxlovid, considering their very limited supply. The patient’s age is a big factor, but so are additional risk factors including underlying medical conditions. The department says “non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity” should be considered a risk factor, “as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
This phrasing almost directly mirrors a section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
“Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put various groups of people at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, including many people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities,” the CDC says (hyperlinks theirs).
Silk confirmed that the guidance in New York “is based on CDC guidelines that show COVID mortality rates are higher among certain demographic groups, including senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals and non-white/Hispanic communities.”
The state’s health department is instructing doctors “to consider an individual’s health-based risk factors” when dispensing therapeutics for COVID-19, Silk said.
Asked whether federal guidelines preclude white people from being treated with therapeutics including sotrovimab or Paxlovid, a Food and Drug Administration spokesperson referred HuffPost to the agency’s website.
“While the authorized Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers acknowledges that certain factors (for example, race or ethnicity) may place an individual patient at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, there are no limitations on the authorizations that would restrict their use in individuals based on race, gender, ethnicity, etc,” the spokesperson, Chanapa Tantibanchachai, told HuffPost.