Progressive pundit launches campaign against Fox News: "Something more needed to be done"

Regular Salon contributor Dean Obeidallah is taking the fight to Fox News — and encouraging others to join him

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published July 22, 2021 4:32PM (EDT)

Dean Obeidallah (Photo illustration by Salon/FOX News/Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
Dean Obeidallah (Photo illustration by Salon/FOX News/Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)

Dean Obeidallah, radio host and regular contributor to Salon, filed a complaint on Tuesday against Fox News for coordinating a "misinformation campaign" around COVID, suggesting that the channel has systematically downplayed coronavirus and sowed doubt around the efficacy of the vaccine. 

The complaint, first announced in an MSNBC op-ed, alleges that Fox News violated the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, a December law which "​​makes it unlawful under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act for any person, partnership, or corporation to engage in a deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID–19."

Obeidallah's legal action comes on the heels of a bombshell Media Matters report from last week, which found that Fox News has "relentlessly undermined the effort to get Americans vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease." 

According to the report, of the 129 vaccine-related segments Fox aired between June 28 through July 11, 57% of them bandied claims that "undermined or downplayed immunization efforts." To boot, nearly 40% of them included language that framed the vaccine as "unnecessary or dangerous."

"I felt that given the spike in COVID cases and deaths – plus the report by Media Matters that came out Friday that quantified the lies by Fox News over the past two weeks on the vaccine – that something more needed to be done than simply yelling about it on my SiriusXM radio show," Obeidallah told Salon over email. 

"So I did research over the weekend and discovered the recently enacted COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, which appears perfectly designed to address Fox News deceptive information," he added. "The goal of that law is to protect the public from deceptive info by those seeking to profit from peddling COVID related lies. Fox News is a for-profit business that sells information. Clearly, it's a business decision by the executives at Fox News to allow lies and other deceptive COVID vaccine info to repeatedly appear on its air."

Obeidallah also told Salon that he has yet to receive a response from the FTC, but he hopes the opens a probe into the network and "takes steps to stop Fox News hosts and others who appear on the air from misleading Americans about the COVID vaccine." The columnist additionally instructed his followers on how to file their own complaints in his newsletter

Over the past month, Fox News has come under intense scrutiny by pundits and politicians alike for its now-blatant pattern of peddling misinformation and bogus science surrounding the COVID crisis.

Asked about Fox News during a Saturday interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading Covid expert, told CNN: "If we had the kind of false information that's being spread now, if we had that back decades ago, I would be certain that we'd still have polio in this country."

On Monday, former Fox News reporter Carl Cameron described the network's viewers as "lemmings running to their own slaughter." 

"Whoever gets the most clicks on social media, makes the most money, gets the most fame, gets the most attention and that type of activity is not journalism," Cameron argued during a CNN interview. "It's not news. It's gaslighting. It's propaganda."

At the helm of Fox News' anti-science propaganda has been host Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly likened the Biden administration's vaccine rollout to an authoritarian regime, where Americans will be compelled to get the jab against their will. 

Carlson, meanwhile, has refused to reveal whether he himself has been vaccinated, despite his on-air rhetoric. 

This week, CNN found that Fox Corporation – Fox News' parent organization – has quietly implemented its own version of a "vaccine passport." Fox has reportedly "developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status," according to employee emails obtained by CNN business. 

The company has apparently encouraged its employees to self-attest in an effort to "assist the company with space planning and contact tracing.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Brief Covid Dean Obeidallah Fox News Ftc Misinformation