Republicans have started to weaponize science — after spending months denying it — in a bid to justify harassing people who wear masks outdoors just as the Centers Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday relaxed some of its outdoor masking guidelines for fully vaccinated people.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who spent months purveying science-free conspiracies over coronavirus, while railing against restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus, suggested a day before the updated guidelines were released, that science now backs up his calls to harass people who continue wearing masks outdoors.
“The next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk on a bike path, ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask? Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it, your mask is making me uncomfortable.'”
The conservative host further declared that requiring a child to wear a mask while playing was akin to a child being beaten in Walmart. He told viewers who witness masked children on playgrounds to immediately call the police and contact child services — “keep calling until someone arrives,” he said.
“What you’re looking at is abuse — it’s child abuse— and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it,” Carlson said.
The comments are the latest effort by the GOP and conservative media to intensify unending outrage over masking while sowing division by claiming that masks are damaging to kids.
“People need fresh air, especially children, deprive them of fresh air and you hurt them,” Carlson said.
A senior editor at The Federalist, Molly Hemingway — who is also a frequent contributor to Fox News — immediately chimed in, tweeting on Monday night, “we all can agree that masking children outdoors, at the very least, is abusive, right?”
The new line of attack is an extension of efforts by Donald Trump, who as president, promoted a misinformation campaign around COVID-19. A Fox News video clip featuring the former president was removed from Facebook and Twitter in August when Trump told the network during an interview that children are “almost immune” to coronavirus.
Carlson’s huffing and puffing on Monday came a day after President Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, signaled on Sunday that growing evidence supported updating the guidelines on masking outdoors.
“They don’t want to make any guidelines unless they look at the data, and the data backs it up,” Fauci said of the CDC during an ABC News interview. He added that scientific data shows the likelihood of contracting coronavirus outdoors is “really very low, particularly if you are vaccinated.”
The CDC released updated guidance on Tuesday that, while easing mask guidelines for vaccinated people outdoors, stopped short of telling vaccinated people that they can completely shed their masks in outdoor settings particularly at events with large crowds.
“We let power drunk politicians wreck the country in exchange for promising to protect us from a virus that we would’ve survived anyway,” Carlson said of the cautious approach taken by the public health agency to mitigate the spread of a virus that has killed roughly 570,00 people in the United States.
The remarks on Monday are part of a longstanding campaign by Carlson and others to deepen division over masking by undermining the benefits of wearing them.
Carlson had previously questioned the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, saying earlier this month that if vaccines are effective, masks should be eliminated. “So maybe it doesn’t work and they’re simply not telling you that,” he said.
On Monday night Carlson chastised his viewers for being “shamefully passive” and declared that “fighting back” was the only option.
Carlson’s hyperbole over masking as abuse follows a similar narrative put forward by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during a podcast interview with conservative radio host Michael Berry that aired on Friday.
“The Democrats and the media on the left — they’re just crazy about it — they view this mask not as a tool that could slow the spread of an infectious disease but as this symbol of moral purity,” Cruz said.
“It’s about control — it’s about Democrats — they want the American people to be docile to be managed, to be willing to be controlled by the government and willingly, freely give up your liberties forever,” he added.
Biden addressed reporters about the updated guidelines outside of the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
When asked what message he was sending by wearing a mask outdoors, Biden smiled, noting that he had removed his mask — and would “not put to back on until I get inside.”
Literally what is this question? pic.twitter.com/Xt9HRy2zvo
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) April 27, 2021