After Fox News talking heads used Gen. Colin Powell’s death from COVID to falsely suggest it was evidence that vaccines don’t work, the network called on Dr. Nicole Saphier to provide a fig leaf for the network’s propaganda. But don’t worry, MAGA fans, while she was clearly rattled by the anti-vax messaging, she never urged anyone to get vaccinated.
Yesterday, Fox News was slammed by us and others for its dishonest and misleading use of Gen. Powell’s death to promote its anti-vax propaganda. Apparently still clinging to the notion that it’s a real news network (despite losing or firing many of its actual news people and bulking up on MAGA opinion), contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier, who seemed genuinely disturbed by the uninformed commentary, visited Fox’s America Reports show to somewhat correct the record.
On top of Fox & Friends’ knee-jerk, disinforming comments about Powell's death, America Reports co-anchor John Roberts tweeted in synch with the false messaging. But after getting ratio’d, he later deleted and clarified his tweet, all before the America Reports show, which airs at 1 PM ET:
(screen grab via Media Matters)
I deleted my tweet about the tragic death of Colin Powell because many people interpreted it as anti-vax. It was not. I was excited to get vaccinated, hoping it would help speed a return to 'normal life'. I also did a PSA on Fox encouraging vaccination for those able....— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) October 18, 2021
Roberts began the discussion with Saphier by noting that Powell was suffering from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, “that can diminish his ability to fight off infection.” He asked, “Would that account for his breakthrough infection? Could it be waning efficacy of the vaccine that he got? Could it be a combination of both or maybe neither?”
Saphier replied, “Why don’t we just stick with what we do know, and we’ll leave it at that.” What we know, she said, is that Powell was 84 years-old and, in addition to the multiple myeloma, he also had Parkinson’s Disease and had previously been treated for prostate cancer. Saphier added that multiple myeloma patients have a decreased ability to fight off infection and a decreased ability to “mount an immune response” after a vaccine. His age also made him more vulnerable. Then she said this:
SAPHIER: We have to remember, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. This virus is still very deadly for certain patient populations, which is why you still have to do your due diligence and do what you can to protect the vulnerable.
Notice anything missing here? Saphier never said a word about the fact that we already know how to protect the vulnerable - via widespread vaccination and face masks. But to the MAGA crowd that dominates Fox, those are as evil as Democrats (never mind that Tucker Carlson just revealed he knows vaccines are effective).
Instead of getting at that point, co-anchor Sandra Smith changed the subject to booster shots. “What do we know now about who should go get one?” she asked. Saphier had pointed out that Powell had been scheduled to get a booster but had put it off when he fell ill.
To her credit, Saphier returned to hinting that the unvaccinated get vaccinated. “There’s still a nine-times-higher rate of hospitalization in the unvaccinated than the vaccinated," she said. "Yes, you are seeing breakthroughs, which is why we are recommending boosters in this particular population, but even just the fully vaccinated who have not gotten their booster still have a much lower rate of hospitalization than if they’re unvaccinated, alone.”
Finally, near the end, Smith asked Saphier to “leave us off now with something that you want to get out there in the wake of Colin Powell’s death, that you want people to know, because, obviously, there’s a lot of information to take in on this.”
SAPHIER: It’s very upsetting to see that people taking Colin Powell’s death, and using it as the vaccine didn’t work. This is a very specific situation, and 1, to use someone’s death to try and make a point that really doesn’t carry a lot of weight to it is very frustrating, but I can tell you that this was a very specific situation. You had an elderly gentleman I know that people don’t like that word, but at the age of 84 he was already vulnerable for COVID-19, and then you add a cancer of the blood and he’s the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19.
Nobody specifically corrected Fox & Friends’ disinformation nor did Roberts own up to his part in it. Nor did anyone point out that wider vaccination rates or face-mask use might have saved Powell's life. The result gave a boost to Lachlan Murdoch's pretense that Fox News is a balance of “transparent” news and opinion).
You can watch Saphier’s obvious frustration with her own network, not yet at a level to prompt her to directly contradict its messaging, below, from the October 18, 2021 America Reports.
Updated with corrections to the spelling of Saphier's name.
That said, Powell DID own up to the error and I really do appreciate his unequivocable opposition to subsequent GOP candidates.
Thank you and RIP General Powell. With a big virtual hug to his family (it’s the Italian way),
Let’s hope that he gets the send-off he deserves. I’m sure Handsome Joe will make sure of it.