GOP Utah Governor Blames Right-Wing Media for Vaccine Hesitancy: 'It's Killing People'

Utah's Republican Governor, Spencer Cox said Thursday he believes "propaganda" coming from right-wing media sources is partly to blame for vaccine hesitancy that's contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

"I think it's harmful. It's certainly not helpful," Cox said during a KUED news conference. The governor, who said he didn't have hard data on vaccine hesitancy, expressed frustration with a recent push from right-wing media outlets like Fox News and Newsmax to malign COVID-19 vaccination.

Rob Schmitt, a prime-time host for Newsmax recently said vaccines go "against nature," that some diseases are "supposed to wipe out a certain number of people" and that "vaccines kind of stand in the way of that."

Newsmax, however, told the Washington Post the network did not share Schmitt's point of view.

"Medical professionals who have appeared on Newsmax have strongly encouraged Americans to get the vaccine," the spokesperson said. "From time to time, a guest or host may not be as supportive of these efforts. However, they do not reflect the position of Newsmax."

Spencer Cox
Utah's Republican Governor, Spencer Cox said Thursday he believes "propaganda" coming from right-wing media sources is partly to blame for vaccine hesitancy that's contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Here, Cox appears at the Utah State Capitol on February 26, 2014. George Frey/Getty

A recent segment by CNN anchors John Berman and Brianna Keilar showed collected recent footage of anti-vaccination rhetoric from Fox News' hosts. Media Matters, a left-leaning media bias organization, recently published a list of Fox News' anti-vaccination statements collected since President Joe Biden announced a new outreach program on July 6 to get more Americans vaccinated, which included a possible door-to-door effort to reach low-income Americans.

Jesse Watters, host of Fox News's The Five, was mentioned on the list for a comment made on a recent episode.

"If someone comes on my property, not always a good result. And I'm a lightweight. Think about the people in Texas," Watters said.

Fox host Kayleigh McEnany called the outreach idea "Orwellian," saying, "We cannot allow the government to seize on a COVID-19 outbreak to take our freedoms in this manner." She and host Jeanine Pirro both compared the outreach to federal agents going door-to-door to confiscate guns.

"We have these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get it. That kind of stuff is dangerous, it's damaging, and it's killing people," Cox said.

A sweeping majority of recent COVID-19 related deaths in the United States have been among unvaccinated people. Cox said Utah's vaccination rate has started to increase, but there has also been a sharp incline in new COVID-19 cases. This could be due to loosening pandemic restrictions, as well as the Delta variant which is more contagious, as now accounts for the majority of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Newsweek reached out to Gov. Cox's office for comment.