All Fox News employees were instructed this week to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status to the company, a requirement that flies in the face of public remarks previously made by the network’s conservative hosts ― including Tucker Carlson, who has argued that asking about someone’s vaccination status is as invasive as asking about their favorite sex positions.
In a memo to staff, Fox News Media told all of its employees to record their vaccination status on an employee management website by close of business Tuesday. All workers must participate, the memo says, whether they work on-site or remotely.
These safety measures reflect “the recent rise in COVID cases nationwide and the spread of the Delta variant,” says the memo, which was first reported on by Adweek.
Fox News’ New York employees were also told that while masks largely remain optional for vaccinated people ― albeit “strongly encouraged in public areas throughout the building” ― they must be worn by everyone when in “small, confined spaces.” This includes the TV programs’ control rooms.
In June, Fox employees were encouraged to share their vaccination status as part of a program called the FOX Clear Pass. People with the pass would be allowed to forgo certain health screenings, and would not have to wear masks at work. This pass was publicly likened to a vaccine passport, the kind that Fox News personalities have criticized and claimed to be concerned about.
Though all three major cable news networks have their own vaccine policies for staff, what makes Fox News’ policies stand out is that its network’s hosts have loudly criticized similar ones imposed or suggested by various health and government officials.
Host Tucker Carlson, in an interview with Time magazine last month, said that asking someone their vaccination status is no different from asking a “super vulgar personal question,” like their HIV status or favorite sexual positions.
He made a similar comment when asked by a New York Times journalist in June whether he’d been vaccinated.
“When was the last time you had sex with your wife and in what position?” Carlson reportedly responded in a text message. “We can trade intimate details.”
Carlson has also devoted segments of his show to criticizing mask mandates, claiming that federal health officials want them solely to control people. His show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” was the most watched cable news program in July, pulling in an average of 3 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen.
His fellow host Sean Hannity, whose show drew an average of 2.7 million viewers last month, has also preached on his program that when it comes to vaccinations, people are entitled to “medical privacy” and “doctor-patient confidentiality.” Hannity has similarly blasted mask mandates.
One recent analysis by Media Matters found that in a two-week period in July, 57% of Fox News’ segments about coronavirus vaccines included claims that undermined vaccination efforts.
Attempts to reach Carlson and Hannity for comment about Fox News’ memo were not immediately successful.
A representative for Fox News, reached by HuffPost, declined to publicly comment on the company’s vaccine status requirement or Carlson’s vaccine-related comments.