Atlantic writer Derek Thompson shreds so much of Berenson's fear mongering about the COVID vaccines, Fox would never book him again if it had any principles. But the fact that Tucker Carlson passionately defended him and gave him a friendly platform to whine about the article last night, tells you everything you need to know about Carlson and the network. Well, that and the fact that Fox head honcho Rupert Murdoch got his vaccine on December 18 and hasn't been seen on Fox complaining about it.
Thompson writes that Berenson has downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic and wrongly claimed that face masks can’t protect against COVID to a large audience of Fox viewers and more than 200,000 Twitter followers. But he seems to have outdone himself with vaccine disinformation.
He’s not an outright liar, like Donald Trump, say. Thompson describes Berenson’s TV appearances as “more misdirection than outright fiction,” but that doesn’t make his vaccine claims any less dangerous.
Berenson seems to enjoy spelunking through research to find esoteric statistics that he then dresses up with spooky language to make confusing points that sow doubt about the vaccines. Arguing that COVID-19 cases spike after the first dose, he directs people to the Pfizer-BioNTech FDA briefing document, which reports hundreds of “suspected but unconfirmed” COVID-19 cases in the trial’s vaccine group that aren’t counted as positive cases in the final efficacy analysis.
But “suspected but unconfirmed” doesn’t refer to participants who were probably sick with COVID-19. On the contrary, it refers to participants who reported various symptoms, such as a cough or a sore throat, and then took a PCR test—and then that test came back negative.
“His point is absolutely stupid, and I would know because I enrolled participants in the Pfizer-BioNTech trial,” Kawsar Talaat, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, told me. “He’s talking about people who call in and say, ‘I have a runny nose.’ So we mark them as ‘suspected.’ Then we ask them to take a PCR test, and we test their swab, and if the test comes back negative, the FDA says it’s ‘unconfirmed.’ That’s what suspected but unconfirmed means.”
There’s plenty more where that came from. Thompson sums up Berenson by likening him to a loudmouth at a gym yelling that lifting weights, which causes small muscles to tear and then strengthen, is actually ripping them up and potentially fatal.
Berenson’s case against the vaccines “wobbles because it is built upon a steaming pile of bullshit,” Thompson concludes.
But a steaming pile of bullshit is what Fox keeps selling. Just three weeks ago, Berenson told a supportive Laura Ingraham that the vaccine “changes nothing.” She built upon that as a foundation to smear all of the public health establishment. “Well, when they lose the crisis they lose their power,” she said. “They need the crisis to continue. Never let a crisis end, OK? That's the new mantra.”
Actually, by fear mongering against vaccines and other COVID safety measures, Fox is the one trying to extend the crisis.