Joe Biden and Olivia Rodrigo have teamed up to promote the covid vaccine among Americans under 25, but now they’re up against the youthful energy and persuasive powers of *checks notes* Charlie Kirk. The battle for the upper arms of America’s youth continues as one side is encouraging teens and newly minted adults to get vaccinated and the other is actively working to instruct high school and college students on how to reject the vaccine and sound like an utter douchebag while doing it.
According to the Washington Post, the Trump-supporting youth group Turning Point USA recently hosted an event where an ER doctor offered the following script to a room full of students in Tampa: “You say, ‘I’m 18 years old. I have no health conditions. Based on the five-year mortality data, I have a highly [sic] likelihood of dying from flu vs. covid, and I don’t get the flu vaccine, so I’m not going to get this one.”
The affiliated organization Turning Point Action also sent fearmongering text messages to young people, which opened “Charlie Kirk here” and claimed that Joe Biden is “sending goons DOOR-TO-DOOR” to force them to get the covid vaccine. Turning Point USA, meanwhile, has taken out Facebook ads pointedly referring to the vaccines as “experimental,” casting further doubt on their efficacy. (A spokesperson for Turning Point told the Washington Post that Kirk is only against mandates, insisting: “If anywhere my client is represented as anti-vaccine that will be taken very seriously. This is a pro-freedom movement, not ‘anti-vax.’” He also said the text message wasn’t approved by Kirk, but the spokesman nevertheless defended their contents.)
His spread of misinformation isn’t limited to just vaccines, either. Earlier this week, Kirk took some time on his podcast to spew hateful rhetoric in the direction of national treasure Simone Biles, calling her “immature, selfish, and a shame to the country.” Shocking that Kirk even had time to watch the Olympics considering his devotion to convincing teenagers to expose themselves to a deadly virus.
The potential for Kirk and his organization to stoke vaccine resistance even as Delta gathers speed is no joke. The Post reports that Turning Point is present “on more than 2,500 college and high school campuses” and has a considerable Facebook presence for its ads which have reportedly been viewed millions of times. It’s yet another Herculean challenge for high schools and colleges already struggling to safely educate students whose studies have already been interrupted by the virus to a degree that has yet to be quantified but ranges somewhere between bad and catastrophic.