Cases of the virus that's killed over 600 thousand Americans are rising again, as are deaths and hospitalizations. Despite this, right-wing lawmakers and media personalities are encouraging skepticism of the available vaccines and comparing the Biden administration's effort to ramp up vaccinations to the Nazi party, Jim Crow, apartheid, and the Taliban.
The conservative Fox News network has been a purveyor of conspiracy theories and outcry regarding the vaccine, just as it frequently downplayed the severity of the virus in the year and a half since the pathogen upended daily life in the United States.
But earlier this week, folks noticed a new tone among some of the network's host. They were suddenly imploring people to get the vaccine and warning them of the stronger, deadlier Delta variant of the virus, which recently became the dominant strain in the United States. It was a change that BIden himself noted in a recent town hall.
Far-right Fox News host Sean Hannity, in particular, went viral for telling his millions of viewers to take the Delta variant seriously, and that he believes "in the science of vaccination."
Hannity had repeatedly amplified deadly Republican talking points decrying pandemic safety measures, as well as efforts to get the public vaccinated, so his sudden about-face came as a surprise to many.
But in the conservative media atmosphere, these are controversial sentiments—however potentially lifesaving—and now Hannity's walking them back.
In his latest broadcast, Hannity bristled at reports that he encouraged viewers to get vaccinated, saying:
"I never told anyone to get a vaccine. I have been very clear. I am simply not qualified. I am not a medical doctor. I know nothing about your medical history or your current medical condition. I think it's inappropriate for me to do so. Instead, for over a year now I have been warning my viewers, you make my career possible."
It's interesting that Hannity cites his lack of medical credentials in withholding calls on his viewers to get vaccinated, especially because his lack of a medical degree didn't prevent him from calling the virus a "hoax" or from frequently speculating about Biden's mental health as recently as that same broadcast.
Sadly, people weren't surprised.
But they weren't any less disgusted and exasperated.
Vaccination rates in the U.S. continue to lag.