White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House May 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images
The White House has held discussions with Fox News about its COVID-19 vaccine coverage.
Fox News hosts have for months encouraged viewers to question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
Studies have found a partisan divide in willingness to get the shot.
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The Biden administration has confronted Fox News over the bid by some of its top-rated hosts to erode trust in the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
White House Press secretary Jen Psaki at a press briefing on Tuesday confirmed that officials had held talks with the right-wing Fox News network and other media outlets about their coverage of the vaccine rollout strategy.
“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,” Psaki said.
And addressing Fox News specifically, Psaki emphasized “the importance of reaching Fox News’ audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits, and like we are with all of you here today we, of course, are in regular contact.”
Psaki’s statement came after CNN reported that the discussions between White House officials and Fox News over its vaccination coverage had taken place regularly and at a “high level.”
A Fox News spokesperson denied CNN’s characterisation of the White House meetings.
“CNN’s reporting is inaccurate. There have been no high level conversations between Fox News Media and the White House regarding our coverage. We had one routine briefing with the White House in early May on vaccination rates and our DC bureau personnel are regularly in touch with them on a variety of issues, as is the case with every other network,” said the spokesperson.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for information on the meetings.
Over the past week the Biden administration has stepped up its pushback against vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists as vaccination rates lag and the highly contagious Delta variant spreads rapidly.
Last week President Joe Biden accused Facebook of “killing people” by hosting anti-vaccine propaganda on its platform, in comments he subsequently moderated. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical officer, on Saturday said media networks which have pushed vaccine skeptical views have played a key role in discouraging many to get a shot.
Several surveys have found a clear partisan divide in willingness to get vaccinated, with the states where vaccination rates are lowest among the most conservative in the country.
Some of Fox News’ top-rated hosts, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have for months been encouraging Americans to question the safety of vaccines, misrepresenting the views of public health officials and skewing data in their arguments.
Critics told Insider back in February the campaign was likely a bid to damage the Biden administration, and boost ratings by stirring paranoia about plots by liberal and scientific “elites.”
In an abrupt shift in message emphasis on Monday, hosts including Sean Hannity and Steve Doocey urged viewers to get the vaccine. Senior Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also issued public statements Monday urging Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
A Fox News spokesperson denied claims that the positive comments made about vaccines by hosts Monday were a new position, directing Insider to a list of times hosts in recent months had expressed support for the drive to get Americans vaccinated.
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