Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Right-wing media are spreading an Infowars lockdown conspiracy theory

Fox and others followed Alex Jones’ conspiratorial lead in fearmongering about “new lockdowns” ahead of the 2024 election

The United States has seen a late summer surge in cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 as public health officials track the emergence of three new variants. In reaction, right-wing media are stoking their audience’s outrage by claiming “full COVID-19 lockdowns,” including “mask tyranny” and a “vax scheme,” will be implemented as part of a nefarious plot to steal the 2024 election from Donald Trump. 

This allegation — which has been pushed by a number of right-wing figures and even a Republican senator — can seemingly be traced directly back to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars broadcast. 

  • Jones declared lockdowns would be reimposed with “perfect timing” before 2024, including forced vaccination via drones

    • On August 18, Jones claimed that “COVID protocols,” including “new lockdowns,” would be put into place in the coming months. Jones said the U.S. would be a “hellhole” by December and alleged Democrats would use the opportunity to rig the 2024 presidential election, citing debunked conspiracy theories about mail-in ballots. [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 8/18/23; Media Matters, 8/21/20]
    • Jones continued to push COVID vaccine conspiracies, announcing on August 21 that the vaccine would be sprayed on the population by drones. Jones argued this was part of a plot to “make you take the vaccine whether you like it or not.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 8/21/23]
    • Jones appeared on Trump ally Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast to claim the supposed new lockdowns are part of a “war” against the American people. Jones hedged his argument in this interview, claiming that if these predicted lockdowns did not come to fruition it would be because “we stopped it.” Bannon praised Jones for the conspiracy theory, remarking that the media had the COVID-19 narrative “locked and loaded.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 8/21/23]
    • On Louder with Crowder, Jones called the COVID surge “perfect timing” for interference with the 2024 election. Despite his apparent confidence that “they know exactly what they’re doing,” Jones backtracked, telling host Steven Crowder, “I’m not saying it’s even going to happen.” [Louder with Crowder, 8/23/23
    • Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) shared a meme featuring the Infowars article on Elon Musk’s platform (formerly Twitter). Lee, a regular proponent of conspiracy theories who once advertised the debunked election fraud documentary 2000 Mules, commented, “Over my lifeless body,” in response to the Infowars article on lockdowns, which was shared by an account promoting conspiracy theorist Stew Peters’ anti-vaccine documentary Died Suddenly. [Twitter/X, 8/19/23; The New York Times, 8/23/22; Media Matters, 3/10/23]
  • Right-wing media echoed Jones’ conspiratorial claims that the nonexistent COVID protocols are an attempt at election interference

    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk claimed there was a plot to implement “COVIDian tyranny” and “lock you down again just in time for the election” in order to launch a “Marxist-type revolution.” Kirk alleged that the scheme came from the “illegitimate regime” attempting to prevent Trump from becoming president again. The far-right host repeatedly cited mask mandates at Lionsgate studio and Atlanta’s Morris Brown College to claim Hollywood and “over 100-plus” universities are embracing a manufactured crisis, but he failed to mention that other studios have not reportedly followed the example of Lionsgate, which is experiencing a “cluster of COVID cases” among staff, and that Morris Brown enrolls less than 300 students. [Salem Radio Network, The Charlie Kirk Show, 8/23/23; ABC, 8/22/23; WABE, 3/16/23]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham cited Morris Brown and Lionsgate to argue the left is pushing a “sense of panic” in order to “set up even more restrictions ahead of the 2024 election cycle.” As Ingraham spoke later in the segment, the chyron underneath warned, “Left laying groundwork for more COVID restrictions,” and, “Medical cartel pushes endless vax scheme.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/21/23]
    • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling declared that “the World Health Organization (WHO), the inept CDC, and Fauci cronies” are trying “to drum up this latest COVID variant” to create an election year crisis to beat Trump. Bolling told his audience, “We won’t be pawns in their thirst to hold power.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 8/22/23]
  • Right-wing figures also pushed baseless claims about national lockdowns, decried “liberal COVID hysteria,” and suggested Jones was right

    • The Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft repeated Infowars’ reporting directly, claiming “the Biden regime is preparing to reinstate full COVID-19 lockdowns.” Hoft characterized the emergence of new variants as “fear porn from the so-called health experts.” [The Gateway Pundit, 8/18/23
    • Fox host Sean Hannity argued that Morris Brown College’s return to mask mandates was evidence of “liberal COVID hysteria.” Commenting on the new variant, Hannity refused to trust public health officials, claiming that they were not capable of “seeing something coming that we are not.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/21/23
    • Fox contributor Douglas Murray implied that college mask mandates are an omen for the return of full restrictions. Murray said he would not “submit” or “comply” if “authorities are not willing to be honest” about public health guidance. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 8/23/23]
    • Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said “it turns out Jones was right.” Paul warned that Americans will soon face “mask tyranny & other social controls.” [Twitter/X, 8/22/23]
    • Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool published a video entitled “COVID LOCKDOWNS Coming BACK, Mask Policy Return As CDC Warns of New Variant, ALEX JONES MAY BE RIGHT.” Pool claimed Democrats will take “any opportunity to lock down” because “this is the only chance they have to defeat Donald Trump.” [YouTube, 8/21/23]
  • Right-wing media’s latest fearmongering continues their yearslong campaign of falsehoods about the COVID-19 pandemic

    • This is not the first time right-wing media have fomented outrage over the potential return of public health protocols during COVID-19 spikes. As dozens of people died in Los Angeles during a winter 2022 surge, Fox hosts claimed masks were a “failure” and called public health officials “lunatics” obsessed with power. [Media Matters, 12/2/22]
    • COVID-19 has surged in the U.S. every summer since it first appeared, and the CDC has been warning of a new wave since at least the end of July. Claims by right-wing media that this surge was engineered with “perfect timing” to align with the election are categorically false. [CNN, 8/3/23; NPR, 7/28/23
    • The COVID-19 booster targeting the predominant XBB.1.5 strain was recommended by the WHO in May and scheduled by the FDA in June. Contrary to right-wing assertions, the shot has long been planned and is not a sudden reaction to the three subvariants currently being tracked by public health officials. [NBC, 6/15/23; CBS, 8/22/23]