July 15, 2024

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Why Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate was the fiery TV we needed

President Joe Biden, in announcing sweeping new federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements Thursday, noted that many businesses already required their employees to be vaccinated — “even Fox News.”

It was a telling swipe at a network that reportedly requires employees to report their vaccination status, even as its top talent at times has pushed doubt about the COVID-19 vaccine, framing it as some sort of freedom of choice.

Um, no.

“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said during the speech. “This is about protecting yourself and those around you.”

It was a pretty remarkable bit of television, and duly noted on social media.

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Biden’s speech was full of tough talk. It made for great TV

Biden’s frustration echoed that of those fed up with vaccine hesitancy — and fed up with how that hesitancy has hampered the fight against the pandemic, which continues to sicken and kill people daily.

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said. Later, addressing just those people, he said, “What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?”

It’s about time.

“We’ve been patient,” Biden said. “But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House on Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington.

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House on Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington.

Before Biden’s speech, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that the state would “push back” on the mandates. During his speech, Biden addressed just that sort of reaction (though he probably had Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in mind).

“If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I will use my powers as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said.

That’s tough talk. For those wishing Biden would step up, this was their moment.

“In some ways this was the, ‘Come on, man,’ speech,” the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker said on MSNBC after the speech.

Not everyone felt that way, of course.

How Fox News — called out in the speech — covered the news

On “The Five” on Fox News, co-host Jesse Watters called out Biden, saying the president was mad about the economy and Afghanistan and a host of issues.

“He’s taking that anger out on the unvaxed,” Watters said. Then, later, “He’s trying to divide the country against itself for political exploitation.”

Pot, meet kettle. Although in the case of Watters it’s more like ratings exploitation.

Watters wasn’t alone in recognizing that this wasn’t exactly a victory lap, however.

“Let’s be clear about what this speech was,” David Chalian said on CNN. “This was a speech that, if things were going swimmingly, wouldn’t be needed.”

Biden used the speech to announce federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements, mandating that all employers with more than 100 workers be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. He also signed an executive order requiring employees of the executive branch, as well as contractors who do business with the federal government, to be vaccinated.

‘I think there is going to be pushback.’ No kidding

Before the speech, Bret Baier said on Fox News, “I think there is going to be pushback.”

That was a safe bet. Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, tweeted that “this is nothing short of tyranny. It cannot be tolerated.”

For what it’s worth, Duncan has called for Biden’s impeachment after the president’s handling of troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.

The reaction, however, was not as ubiquitous as you might have guessed. Maybe the effectiveness of the vaccine simply can’t be questioned anymore, though that seems unlikely. Have you ever watched Tucker Carlson talk to one of his guests about this?

No, it was a matter of directing traffic. The mandate story was competing on all the networks with 9/11 remembrances and stories about the U.S. Department of Justice suing Texas over its new draconian abortion law, and the first commercial flight to take off from Afghanistan since the U.S. military airlift.

It wasn’t quite the hair-on-fire news cycle the media became accustomed to during the Trump administration, but it was plenty busy.

Still, it was Biden’s most forceful speech about vaccinations. And no matter how the media covered it, it couldn’t have come soon enough.

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Reach Goodykoontz at [email protected]. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk. Subscribe to the weekly movies newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: How TV news covered President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate speech

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