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Some liberal podcasters or their guests also shared false or unsubstantiated statements, including statements by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York about child poverty or immigration, which fact checkers rated “false” or “mostly false.”
But Dr. Wirtschafter said conservative shows far outpaced liberal ones in sharing misleading information. Many podcast hosts, she said, leveraged fears over the pandemic to captivate anxious Americans. A roster of anti-vaccination activists and armchair experts pushed baseless theories about the coronavirus and Covid-19 vaccines. They said Covid could be treated or cured using ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, two existing drugs, despite evidence that they were not effective.
“What we wind up with is everybody is a health expert all because they saw some study,” Dr. Wirtschafter said.
Mr. Bannon, for example, frequently prodded for evidence in interviews with guests, conveying an apparent search for truth. But, as clips of these interviews show, he often gave his guests the final word, seldom endorsed opposing views and rarely cautioned his audience to wait for more information.
“Maybe there is some nuance or debate in the conversation,” Dr. Wirtschafter said, but Mr. Bannon leaves listeners with the clear impression that officials and institutions “are totally lying to you,” she added.
“I would agree with that characterization of the world,” Natalie Winters, a co-host and executive editor of “War Room,” said in an interview. She added that the show’s goal was to “go up against the mainstream narratives, to provide the counterpoint to it.”
Mr. Bannon appeared confused in one episode after Steve Kirsch, a technology mogul and founder of the Vaccine Safety Research Foundation, an anti-vaccine group, said it wasn’t known what was inside the vaccine.