TIFFANY HSU AND MARC TRACY
Published:November 12, 2021
-New York Times
On a recent episode of his podcast, Rick Wiles, a pastor and self-described “citizen reporter,” endorsed a conspiracy theory: that covid-19 vaccines were a product of a “global coup d’etat by by the most evil cabal of people in the history of all mankind.
“It’s an egg that hatches into a synthetic parasite and grows inside your body,” Mr. Wiles said on his Oct. 13 episode. “This is like a sci fi nightmare, and it’s happening in front of us.”
Mr. Wiles belongs to a group of hosts who have made false or misleading statements about Covid-19 and effective treatments for it. Like many of them, he has access to much of his listening audience because his his show appears on a platform provided by a large media corporation.
Mr. Wiles’s podcast is available through iHeart Media, an audio company based in San Antonio that says it reaches nine out of 10 Americans each month. Spotify and Apple are other major companies that provide significant audio platforms for hosts who have shared similar views with their listeners about Covid-19 and vaccination efforts, or have had guests on their shows who promoted such notions.
Scientific studies have shown that vaccines will protect people against the coronavirus for long periods and have significantly reduced the spread of Covid-19 exceeds five million-and at a time a time when more than 40 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated-iHeart,Spotify,Apple and many smaller audio companies have done little to rein in what radio hosts and podcasters say about the virus and vaccination efforts.
“There’s really no curb on it,” said Jason Loviglio, an associate professor of media and communication studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “There’s no real mechanism to push back, other than advertisers boycotting and corporate executives saying we need a cultural change.