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Biden pokes at Fox hosts: They've had 'altar call' on vaccines

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The Hill
The Hill
 11 days ago
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President Biden said it is good that Fox News anchors are now urging viewers to get vaccinated while poking fun at hosts for changing their rhetoric Wednesday.

"One of those other networks — they’re not a big fan of mine, one you talk about a lot — but if you notice, as they say in the southern part of my state, they’ve had an altar call, some of those guys,” Biden, invoking the religious act of stepping forward to make a spiritual commitment, said during a CNN town hall.

“All of a sudden they’re out there saying, 'Let’s get vaccinated, let’s get vaccinated.' The very people before this were saying — I shouldn’t make fun of it, that’s good. It's good," Biden said to host Don Lemon . "You just have to keep telling your truth."

Biden's remarks came in response to a question about what the White House was doing to combat medical misinformation.

The president didn’t mention Fox or any hosts by name, but his comments come after Fox’s Sean Hannity this week told viewers “I believe in the science of vaccination” and "Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy noted on-air that the majority of people dying of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Biden administration has reached out to Fox News and other networks about their coverage of the pandemic amid efforts to boost vaccination numbers across the country.

"We’ve been in touch with every network and many, many media outlets about coverage of COVID-19 to make sure people have accurate information, to voice concerns when we have them, and I think you all know we’re never shy when we have an issue with a story," Psaki said at a press briefing.

The network's conservative programming has been of particular focus given its mixed messaging about vaccines and their effectiveness. While hosts such as Hannity have directly encouraged vaccination, other personalities such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have criticized vaccine mandates and maintained that viewers should not be compelled to get the vaccine.

The president's remarks Wednesday come amid a broader effort by the Biden administration to address vaccine hesitancy and combat misinformation about the coronavirus, as officials seek to drive up vaccine rates to address the rapidly spreading delta variant.

During the town hall, Biden also addressed backlash to his comments last week condemning Facebook over the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, in which he declared that platforms like Facebook are "killing people" with misinformation.

On Monday, the president softened his criticism, saying he wished the tech giant would do more to stop the spread of inaccurate information.

"You may have heard that I was critical of some of the things that are on Facebook and that I was attacking Facebook. I wasn’t attacking Facebook,” Biden said Wednesday.

He brought up a report that 12 people were responsible for roughly 65 percent of all the anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms, which the White House announced last week.

“I said they’re killing people — those 12 individuals — that misinformation is going to kill people. Not a joke, not a joke,” he said.

“It’s like telling your kid, I’ll tell you what, they’re 4 years old, when you see a red light, cross the street. I mean, come on. What we’re trying to do is use every avenue we can — public, private, government, nongovernment — to try to get the facts out, what they really are,” he added.

The White House was in a back and forth with Facebook after the administration stressed that social media platforms needed to do more to stop the spread of misinformation. Facebook had hit back, arguing it had helped millions of users access helpful information about vaccines.

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