Tucker Carlson has made up something to get mad about, again.
On his nightly Fox News show, he’s been promoting the newly minted lie that white people are being denied COVID-19 treatments and vaccines; the treatments and good care, the false story goes, are being given to Black people instead.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of health they’re in. All that matters is their skin color,” he said on his show. “Whites don’t qualify.”
Interesting argument from someone who has denounced, downplayed and denied that COVID-19 is a public health issue (you want white people to get treated for something you don’t even believe in?), but more on that later.
Carlson is basing this dangerous lie on the fact that doctors consider the patient’s background before treatment. The coronavirus has been shown to be worse for poor people, elderly people and, yes, nonwhite communities due to systemic inequities. In reality, doctors consider a host of factors before treating a patient, and race is just one of them.
But this isn’t really about some kind of discrimination against white patients in our nation’s hospitals. It’s just the latest iteration of a white conservative absolutely livid that people of color, Black ones specifically, might be benefiting from something.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how untrue it is. It’s already spreading.
Donald Trump, who is most likely going to run for president again, took Carlson’s lie and ran with it at a rally in Arizona over the weekend.
“The left is now rationing lifesaving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating … white people to determine who lives and who dies,” he falsely claimed to his screaming fans. “If you’re white, you don’t get the vaccine or if you’re white you don’t get therapeutics.”
It’s important to remember that Trump was in power when the U.S. developed its COVID-19 vaccines with the help of his administration’s Operation Warp Speed. The former president quietly got vaccinated before leaving office and had made a few attempts to get credit for “creating” the vaccine, but many of his supporters opted not to get the shot. Trump was even booed at one of his rallies in Alabama for urging the crowd to get vaccinated.
But now, this dangerous conspiracy theory is his new way in: His supporters haven’t gotten the shot not because he peddled endless misinformation, but because they’re the victims of discrimination!
“Once you’ve cut all the so-called handouts and decimated all the public institutions, what’s left to give to your base?”
And as we all know by now, the right treats Trump as a sort of god — his word is gospel. While Carlson planted the seed for this new racist lie, Trump repeating it would allow it to spread widely.
What makes this insidious new theory even more remarkable is that Carlson is very clearly in the “COVID Isn’t A Big Deal” camp. He has railed against vaccine mandates, compared mask-wearing to mental illness, and complained about restrictions as if they were torture instead of sound public health measures.
Carlson keeps Fox News viewers seething at public health officials with his nonsensical tales of anti-white racism. He has also helped normalize the use of disproven COVID-19 treatments, including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, which scientists and health experts agree aren’t very effective at fighting the disease.
Let’s not forget just how much Carlson and his ilk have played footsie with anti-vaxxers. Last year, he compared vaccine mandates to forced sterilization.
So after nearly two years of railing against COVID-19 treatments and vaccines and treating the pandemic as some kind of liberal plot against the brave conservatives of the world, why does Carlson suddenly believe white people aren’t getting access to all the things he was denouncing?
If conservative ideology of the last four decades can be boiled down to something simple, I would describe it as white rage. Conservatives’ quest to enrich corporations by cutting social programs for the poor has devolved into keeping white people angry.
After winning the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of conservatism. He popularized the myth of the welfare queen to justify gutting social programs like public housing and food stamps. Mainstream media and other politicians on both sides of the aisle ran with the trope. And, of course, the face of the welfare queen was a Black woman spending government money on fur coats, jewelry and lobster. This idea that Black people were getting something they didn’t deserve allowed the public to support the slashing of the safety net.
And once you’ve cut all the so-called handouts and decimated all the public institutions, what’s left to give to your base?
Carlson has nothing to offer his viewers besides grievance. There’s no strong stance on specific policies, no advocating for rights (except for your right to spread a deadly disease while eating at a chain restaurant). Now that the American experiment is teetering on the edge due to the wholesale ransacking of what every functioning democracy considers a right — housing, health care, voting — the only thing left to do is to find someone to blame for our discontent. And this is America. There’s no better scapegoat than an undeserving Black person.