Fox News promotes conspiracy theory linking Bronny James collapse to Covid vaccine

James’s hospitalisation prompts wave of anti-vaxx claims led by Elon Musk and echoed by Fox anchors

Stuti Mishra
Wednesday 26 July 2023 08:47 BST
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<p>Bronny James #6 of the West team looks on during the 2023 McDonald's High School Boys All-American Game at Toyota Center </p>

Bronny James #6 of the West team looks on during the 2023 McDonald's High School Boys All-American Game at Toyota Center

A Fox News anchor has claimed without evidence that the cardiac arrest suffered by college basketball player Bronny James could be linked to the Covid-19 vaccine, the latest in a series of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories peddled by the right-wing news channel.

James, the son of basketball icon LeBron James, suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday and was hospitalised. While doctors have made no claims about the cardiac arrest James suffered being linked to Covid vaccine, his hospitalisation prompted an immediate wave of anti-vaccination claims led by Twitter founder Elon Musk.

There has also been no evidence released by doctors yet that James suffered myocarditis, a heart problem caused by inflammation of the heart muscle, which, in the most serious cases, can cause a cardiac arrest.

Fox anchors, however, began discussing myocarditis on their programmes apart from Mr Musk tweeting about it.

Fox News host Martha McCallum, speaking during the channel’s recurring series Unanswered Questions on Tuesday, claimed “myocarditis is a side effect of the vaccine”, repeating what Mr Musk said earlier. Fox host Laura Ingraham echoed the claims as well and claimed without evidence that myocarditis cases “seem to be accelerating”.

“We cannot ascribe everything to the vaccine, but, by the same token, we cannot ascribe nothing,” Mr Musk had said in reaction to the news of James’s hospitalisation, while saying myocarditis “is a known side-effect” of the Covid vaccine.

But what the Twitter founder and the Fox anchors did not mention was that experts have said the heart condition is a rare occurance among vaccinated individuals.

McCallum said there has been an “increase” in young men suffering heart attacks.

“Why do so many otherwise healthy young men especially seem to be collapsing with heart issues?” she asked.

“We have no details yet on what exactly happened,” she said of James, “but we also know that he hasn’t been the only young player to collapse at the USC training facility”.

“Amazingly, this is the second time this has happened to the USC basketball program in the past year, last summer during workouts. He also went into cardiac arrest while practicing there at USC.”

“Remember you can ask any question. Certainly not about what many have noticed to be an alarming number of young people with new heart issues,” she said.

The theory about vaccine side-effects is the latest in a series of several such unfounded claims that scientists have debunked in the past.

The connection between cardiac arrests and Covid vaccines was something experts quickly clarified, stating that research so far suggested it to be a “rare side-effect”.

While research has established a link between myocarditis and Covid vaccines, there is a basis on how rare an occurence it is.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that between the ages of 18 and 29, it affects no more than 11.6 vaccinated young men per 100,000 – that is, around 0.01 per cent.

Another study of nearly 43 million people, published in the American Heart Association’s academic journal Circulation, found the risk of myocarditis rose for young men under 40 after the second dose of some vaccines.

It was still extremely low in absolute terms, at no more than 100 extra cases per 1 million.

But research shows the risk of myocarditis is considerably higher from contracting Covid than from getting vaccinated against it.

The CDC study found James’s age group was 7-8 times more likely to develop the condition after infection than after vaccination.

There have also been known instances of many young athletes falling ill in similar ways before the pandemic as well.

Moreover, there is no evidence that the Covid vaccine caused James’s cardiac arrest or that he has myocarditis either, something Janette Nesheiwat, an expert called by Fox News, also pointed out.

“So what is more common in someone like Bronny James is a cardiomyopathy, not myocarditis,” she said.

Dr Nesheiwat, however, didn’t rule out the possibility of McCallum’s claim, but added that it needed to be determined by medical checkups.

“Is it off the table? Absolutely not. He needs to have the workup to determine what happened. He’ll probably have an EKG and an echo stress test. Fortunately there’s treatment for this.”

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