Actor, animator, and show creator Seth MacFarlane sharply criticized Oprah Winfrey and Fox News for purveying pseudoscience in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, in the debut installment of VICE TV’s political talk show “Seat at the Table with Anand Giridharadas,” which debuts Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.
MacFarlane has criticized Fox News in the past, despite his association with the company that helped make him millions with the popular shows “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” (While “Family Guy” still airs on Fox, MacFarlane signed a $200 million overall deal with NBC Universal earlier this year.)
MacFarlane recently clashed with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, one of several figures on the network who have been pushing for an end to social distancing requirements, over a tweet accusing the Washington Post of wanting the shutdown to continue “indefinitely.”
“Of course, The Washington Post does not want this to go on forever, they have families there stuck at home too!” MacFarlane said. “It's not that simple.”
MacFarlane also had choice words for Oprah Winfrey, who he accused in a recent tweet of using her platform “to amplify dubious voices” such as Dr. Phil, who has implied shutdowns are an overreaction to the coronavirus, and Dr. Oz, who repeatedly boosted the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus and pushed for reopening schools.
Below are some of the highlights from MacFarlane’s conversation with Giridharadas.
“Oprah has spent her career doing a lot of altruistic things -- given to a lot of charities, supported a lot of good causes, and in many ways used her platform for good,” MacFarlane said. “The exception to that is the elevation of these purveyors of pseudoscience. People like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, all the way back to Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaxx movement.”
“And it’s a strange dichotomy that I think a lot of people, particularly right now, are having trouble reconciling,” he added. “You know this person who has done all of this positive work for the world, and yet somehow has gotten caught up in this web of junk science on many occasions. So, it’s a tough thing to balance.”
On Ingraham and Fox News
“That would be my biggest criticism of Fox News, is that the nuance is gone. I mean, the Laura Ingraham tweet was a perfect example,” MacFarlane said. “Of course, The Washington Post does not want this to go on forever, they have families there stuck at home too! It's not that simple.”
“If that network could get on board with a responsible attitude toward science alone, I could live with all the other shit,” he added.
On what he thinks of the Murdoch family
“It’s a hard thing for me personally to reconcile because I know the family. I have a friendly relationship with the family,” MacFarlane said. “And by the way, I’ve said point-blank, I think you should look at what you’re doing. And take a more active role [in Fox News].”
On creative freedom at Fox
“Since I’ve been doing ‘Family Guy,’ I’ve never gotten anything remotely… I have never experienced anything like censorship on that level,” MacFarlane said. “They’ve left us alone completely. Even when our politics were aggressively liberal.”
“And the same philosophy as far as I can tell applies to Fox News,” he continued. “It’s just a very hands-off philosophy… there's a self-sustaining mechanism to Fox News that I think exists independently of all that and so it's, you know, I am very comfortable speaking candidly.”
On ‘responsible journalism’
“I think if you look at the Wall Street Journal, take their op-ed out of the picture, which is a bit wackadoo sometimes, it is not an irresponsible publication,” MacFarlane said. “It’s a conservative publication. I don’t think anyone would say it’s off the rails like Fox News.
“I don’t think anybody is saying we want this to be Rachel Maddow; I think people are just saying we want you to honor your duty to the truth,” he added.
Cover: "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane appearing on "Seat at the Table" with Anand Giridharadas via video chat. (Screen shot: VICE TV)