Vaccine mandates for the US military are meant to identify “sincere Christians … free thinkers” and “men with high testosterone levels”, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed on Monday night.
Such people, he said, “do not love Joe Biden” and would “leave immediately”.
“It’s the takeover of the US military,” Carlson said.
The rightwing host has a hugely influential platform, reaching an average 3.3 million viewers in August. He has consistently cast doubt on vaccines and other measures to combat Covid-19.
Katie Lane, whose 45-year-old father was not vaccinated and who died of Covid-19 in Washington state, told CNN he “watched some Tucker Carlson videos on YouTube, and some of those videos involved some misinformation about vaccines, and I believe that played a role”.
On Monday night, Carlson opened by saying “the army is essential for political control” and ridiculing comments by Democrats and the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, about the danger of extremism among US troops.
“Lloyd Austin came up with a new political purity test,” Carlson said. “One designed to separate the obedient from the free. Can’t have any of the latter category.”
Carlson claimed “virtually all” US servicemen and women are less at risk from Covid because they are “young and healthy” or have natural immunity, having contracted the virus and recovered.
He claimed: “Only 46 members of the entire US military have died from the coronavirus over the last year and a half. Suicides, by contrast, kill many, many times more. In just a few months last year, 156 service members killed themselves.
“So, military suicide is an actual crisis that the Pentagon might want to address. Lloyd Austin might want to look into that. But, no, that would get the Democratic party nothing.”
In July, at an airbase in Alaska, Austin said: “One loss by suicide is too many. While we’re working hard on this problem, we have a lot more to do.”
Carlson also said he had obtained a US army slideshow about vaccines which he said listed “the so-called tenets of satanism which are taken from the Temple of Satanism website. So here you have the United States Army doing PR for satanists”.
He also cited the case of Lt Col Paul Douglas Hague, an army officer who said he would resign over the vaccine mandate. Many observers pointed out then that numerous vaccinations are required to serve in the US armed forces.
Vaccinations or daily Covid tests are required by Fox News, Carlson’s employer.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org.