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Tucker Carlson has a new reason to be furious about vaccines that totally, definitely, absolutely has nothing to do with the vaccines themselves: incentives that governments and businesses are using to encourage inoculations.
A week after baselessly questioning the safety of COVID vaccines because of misreading of government data, the Fox News host took aim on his Thursday night broadcast at the various programs like lotteries and free food that governments and businesses are rolling out to boost vaccination rates. Carlson called them “bribes” and claimed that politicians have “decided you're so dumb that only by paying you can they get you to take the medicine."
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that the state would run a series of lottery drawings for vaccinated people in which five adults who’ve received at least one shot could win $1 million each. In another new Ohio lottery, five kids under 18 who get vaccinated could win a full ride to college.
“Oh, that’s not patronizing or ridiculous,” Carlson said, before sniping that DeWine was asked to come on the show but couldn’t because he was “busy.”
Carlson then turned his attention to Bill de Blasio, who ate a burger and fries from Shake Shack on live TV Thursday morning to draw attention to New Yorkers’ ability to get free french fries.
Carlson said de Blasio “smokes a ton of weed, so he sees anything from a stoner’s point of view,” referring to a longtime rumor. “‘I’m Bill de Blasio, I’m so high I can’t think straight, what would I want?’” Carlson said, as a Fox graphic showing de Blasio eating with the sinister phrase “FRENCH FRY BRIBE” plastered next to him.
It was incentive programs that enraged him Thursday night, but Carlson has been a loud and persistent voice against the push to get people vaccinated.
In the past few weeks, Carlson has questioned how safe the vaccines truly are; had Sen. Ron Johnson on his show to wonder aloud what the big rush is to get everyone vaccinated; and said podcast host Joe Rogan was “treated like a war criminal” after Rogan said on his show that young people don’t need to get vaccinated.” (Rogan later walked this back and called himself a “fucking moron” after public health experts pointed out that you shouldn’t get your medical advice from a podcaster.) Tucker’s position seems to be that while people should be able to get vaccinated, any encouragement or incentive to get one is tyrannical.
Incentives, the subject of his latest meltdown, are nothing new to public health or civic participation, whether it’s free food for donating blood or discounts at various restaurants to vote. But vaccine hesitancy is proving to be a significant obstacle to herd immunity in the U.S., and one of the most vaccine-hesitant groups is Republican men—who, you know, might just tune in to Carlson’s show every night.
With or without Carlson’s support, states and local governments are continuing to try to incentivize vaccinations. On Thursday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a giveaway of 50,000 free Six Flags tickets to newly-vaccinated people, following the news that kids as young as 12 can now get the Pfizer vaccine.
"There are a lot of people that are on the fence a little bit, and this will push them in the right direction," Pritzker said.
Tucker would be horrified.