Fox News host Tucker Carlson claims making children wear masks is ‘abuse’

  • Joe Biden set to announce loosening of federal advice
  • Fox News labelled ‘dangerous’ for primetime monologue

Joe Biden is expected on Tuesday to announce a loosening of federal guidance on mask-wearing outdoors, as the coronavirus pandemic recedes.

Dr Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration chief, wrote recently that though “wearing masks and restricting large gatherings were essential to controlling the pandemic’s worst peaks … infection levels are dropping and vaccination rates rising.

“This is the time to revisit rules on masking and distancing in low-risk outdoor settings like parks and sports venues. Easing these rules would move more activity outdoors, which reduces viral transmission.”

Regardless, in primetime on Monday night the Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed requiring children to wear masks outdoors was “child abuse”.

Carlson also said “the only people who wear masks outside are zealots and neurotics” and said seeing a vaccinated person wear a mask outdoors was like “watching a grown man expose himself in public”.

“Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart,” he said.

“Call the police immediately, contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that children over the age of two “wear a mask correctly when in public and when around people they don’t live with”.

Carlson also said: “We have been shamefully passive in the face of all of this.”

His remarks attracted widespread criticism.

“This is really, really dangerous,” tweeted Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent now a CNN analyst. “Listen to his tone of voice, and what he’s instructing. He’s moving from his viewers passively consuming his propaganda to having them act on it – against their neighbours. He’s testing his audience’s compliance.”

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the author of Strongmen, a study of modern authoritarianism, called Carlson’s words “tragic and dangerous”.

The influential Politico Playbook email said: “Seeing parents abide by CDC advice … is not a good reason to sic child protective services on strangers at your local big box store. And we’re pretty sure Carlson knows that, even if some of his viewers might not, which makes his appeal to snitch on mask wearers even worse.”

Elizabeth Spiers, a progressive pollster and journalism professor at New York University, wrote: “Looking forward to the first parent who sues Tucker Carlson because he’s inciting people to harass children who wear masks and calling CPS on their parents.

“Calling CPS is something that should be done for legit reasons, not because you disagree with someone’s parenting methods.

“It’s traumatizing for children, and it can result in children being separated from their parents while CPS tries to figure out what happened. Carlson is a horrible excuse for a human being and he’s endangering kids by suggesting that people do this.”

Carlson is nonetheless an influential voice on the right of the Republican party, a relentless magnet for controversy seen in some quarters as a potential presidential nominee in 2024 if Donald Trump doesn’t run.

Recent polling shows Republicans to be more resistant to vaccinations than Democrats or independents. Pew Research has found Republicans twice as likely as Democrats to speak negatively about masks.

Many Republican-led states have dropped requirements for masks in public. Others never established such mandates. Twenty six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico still mandate masks in public.

Carlson insisted those who have been vaccinated should not wear masks outdoors, quoting the White House chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, as saying the risk was “minusculeand attacking Biden’s vice-president.

“Kamala Harris clearly knows the truth,” Carlson said. “She’s had the vaccine, two doses of it. So she’s not concerned about getting the virus. Yet she wears the mask anyway, and ostentatiously socially distances.

“Why? Well, it’s all a charade, maintained for reasons that have nothing to do with science or public health. That’s all very obvious now. The question is, why have we put up with it?”

No vaccine is 100% effective against Covid-19. Scientists warn it is not impossible for vaccinated people to spread the virus. Official guidance says those vaccinated should “take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing”.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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