Televised mainstream news (TMN) may be relaying intentionally misleading descriptions and narratives that are effectively synonymous with propaganda. This study proposes that TMN knowingly disseminated incomplete information to deter the public from using ivermectin (IVM), an alternative method of treating severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19). This study presents four TMN transcripts from August 20 to September 1, 2021 — two from MSNBC and two from CNN — to determine whether propaganda, the psychological manipulation of unsuspecting viewers, was being deployed to deter public IVM usage. Additionally, it explores TMN’s conflict of interest between objective journalism and protecting the profits of some of its most prominent sponsors. This study calls for re-evaluating media ethics to preserve and strengthen TMN’s credibility.

Keywords: ivermectin; televised mainstream media; propaganda; COVID-19; ethics


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans relied on televised mainstream news (TMN) to receive daily information and guidance regarding the ongoing crisis. This study’s analysis shows that MSNBC and CNN, sufficiently representative of TMN and indicative of TMN’s prevailing trends and ideology, described ivermectin (IVM) with intentionally omitted information. It argues that this incomplete description deterred the public from using an alternative medical intervention to treat COVID-19 infections.

In 2020, TMN consistently downplayed the drug ivermectin (IVM) as a non-credible intervention for COVID-19, sometimes describing it as a “horse dewormer.” However, after September 1, 2021, when online celebrity Joe Rogan stated that he successfully used IVM to treat his COVID-19 infection (Rogan, 2021), televised and other mainstream media outlets covered the matter for several weeks, repeatedly framing IVM as a horse dewormer with no additional benefits. Rogan’s Instagram post on his use of IVM was viewed nearly seven million times, suggesting a potential motivation behind TMN’s repeated incomplete description of IVM.

The repetition of framed information on any given topic influences a receiver’s perception of that topic, leaving TMN with a significant responsibility to broadcast news objectively and ethically. There is a widespread assumption that TMN is a trusted public source of information that is beyond reproach. However, the belief that TMN is ethically valid and free from conflicts of interest warrants a deeper examination. Additionally, intentional false framing must be recognized when manipulating public behavior.

Literature Review

Ivermectin in Medicine and Science

A comprehensive review of studies on IVM in the medical and scientific disciplines is beyond the scope of this study. However, one pre-pandemic study described IVM as follows:

Today, ivermectin is continuing to surprise and excite scientists, offering more

and more promise to help improve global public health by treating a diverse range of diseases, with its unexpected potential as an antibacterial, antiviral and anti-cancer agent being particularly extraordinary. (Crump, 2017, p. 495)

IVM remains on the World Health Organization’s list of essential human medicines and has been taken over four billion times worldwide. The researchers behind it won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for its global and historical impacts in mitigating parasitic infections, including malaria (Nobel Prize Outreach AB, 2023). While the 2015 Nobel Prize was not awarded for its effectiveness in treating COVID-19, this award demonstrates that IVM has been an accepted human medication since 1987.

Concerning COVID-19 specifically, 96 studies from 963 scientists treating 133,842 patients with IVM have revealed statistically significant improvements in mortality, hospitalization, recovery, case numbers, and viral clearance (Covid Analysis, 2023). By the summer of 2021 — 18 months into the pandemic — some scientists had concluded that IVM “can be an effective component of the mix of therapeutics deployed against this pandemic” and could yield “full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains” (Santin et al., 2021, p. 4).

Notably, several studies indicated that IVM is ineffective in treating COVID-19. One study concluded that IVM did not significantly affect COVID-19 recovery, hospitalization duration, or viral load but could reduce mortality (Shafiee et al., 2022). However, the researchers behind that study argued that much of the data pointing to the efficacy of IVM in treating COVID-19 came from studies with low evidence certainty and a moderate to high risk of bias (2022, p. 18). Another group of researchers blamed the use of IVM to treat COVID-19 on “science denialism” and arrived at the following conclusion: “ivermectin does not reduce mortality risk and the risk of mechanical ventilation requirement” (Marcolino et al., 2022, p. 22).

The point of this section is not to debate the efficacy of IVM in treating COVID-19 but to acknowledge the following two facts:

  1. IVM is a drug for humans that has been safely used since 1987.
  2. IVM’s efficacy in treating COVID-19 has no scientific consensus for or against it.

Ivermectin in Communication Journals

Only one relevant peer-reviewed article (Baker & Maddox, 2022) appears in the communication literature. The article is focused on the negative framing of IVM in the media and the social consequences of the resulting polarization (2022). While the authors admitted that many journalists who discredited IVM described the drug as a veterinary intervention, there was no mention of this description’s usage in TMN. Additionally, the study falls short by abandoning objective neutrality with the title, From COVID-19 Treatment to Miracle Cure: The Role of Influencers and Public Figures in Amplifying the Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin Conspiracy Theories During the Pandemic, and conclusion:

These findings raise important questions about how to effectively counter conspiracies. When debunking not only refutes claims but ridicules advocates, debunking can have unintended consequences by strengthening in-group dynamics and fueling the legitimacy of conspiratorial narratives. (Baker & Maddox, 2022, para. 20)

The authors’ conclusion reveals bias and assumption concerning conspiracies, completely side-stepping IVM’s history of practical and beneficial use in humans, thus reinforcing TMN’s misleading narrative. The study was also problematic in that it cites Dr. Pierre Kory, a notable pulmonary and ICU specialist, Dr. Robert Malone, who contributed to the development of mRNA technology; and Dr. Peter McCullough, one of the most published cardiologists in the world with expertise in vaccines — all in support of IVM as a credible intervention.

Framing and Vaccine Hesitancy

There is a consensus that framing affects people’s perception of an issue and, in turn, influences their decision-making processes (Rees et al., 2022, p. 446). This consensus bridges the disciplines of communication and psychology, and within this context, TMN wields enormous power and responsibility.

The systemic omission of information in the description of IVM is a unique propagandistic tool for consideration within the spectacle of a major pandemic. Framing IVM as purely a veterinary medication was disingenuous at best and, in light of TMN’s descriptive salience (Entman, 1993, p. 53), harmful propaganda at worst. Repeated descriptions of IVM as a horse dewormer became etched in the conscious and unconscious minds of the viewers.

Several studies have focused on people’s predispositions to fearing the potential adverse risks of vaccines and the assumptive need to change that belief through framing. Framing theory asserts that the repetition of a topic by TMN can affect the audience’s judgment by enhancing their beliefs (Yousaf et al., 2022). Concerning vaccine acceptance and vaccine hesitancy, one study revealed that the combination of a negative frame focused on the adverse risks of vaccine side effects and a positive frame focused on the immunity provided by vaccines within a single narrative aimed at promoting vaccine safety lessened hesitancy toward vaccination (Haydarov & Gordon, 2015, p. 48). This evidence is essential to this research. In the four examples presented below, TMN portrays IVM within a negative attribute frame as solely veterinarian medicine and a negative goal frame of being poisoned, bolstering what appears to be an intentional effort to dissuade news consumers from conducting personal research into these conflicting claims.

Propaganda and Fake News

Notably, “propaganda” and “fake news” must be distinguished and clarified. The word “propaganda” appears mostly in political communication, military psychological operations, and, to a lesser extent, academia. Some may argue that fake news is synonymous with propaganda but differ regarding motive.

The term “fake news” has become a part of American linguistics, developing two separate meanings and functions following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These two opposed meanings are as a “label,” meaning a “political instrument to delegitimize news media,” and as a “genre,” meaning “deliberately created, pseudo-journalistic disinformation” (Egelhofer & Lecheler, 2019, p. 98). The latter definition is similar to propaganda, but this description is inadequate without the known intent and motivation of TMN’s incomplete description. As debatable as its meaning may be, “propaganda” is the sole terminology appropriate for this study.

Though nearly a century old, “How to Detect Propaganda” (Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1938) is still relevant to psychology and communication studies. This paper defines “name-calling” as a device used to make people form a judgment without first examining the evidence on which the assessment should be based. In this way, propagandists appeal to hate and fear by giving “bad names” to practices, beliefs, and ideals that they “would have us condemn and reject” (1938, p. 50). The constant repetition of the term “horse dewormer” on TMN broadcasts constitutes this kind of name-calling.

The literature review reveals that older, mid-20th-century definitions of propaganda are less ambiguous than in contemporary debate, indicating that the definition of propaganda depends on the era in which it is being defined and the evolution of ethics and morality. One source from this era succinctly described propaganda from the perspective of simple and consensual morality.

According to our definition, propaganda is a method of forestalling, circumventing, and deceiving reason. If extensively used, it makes the individual habitually feel and act uncritically, keeps his thinking capacities undeveloped, and renders him extremely gullible and suggestible. By keeping him constantly in the dark as to some significant relevant facts, it renders its victim’s reason impotent even when it allows him some use of it. (Henderson, 1943, p. 85)

The extant literature indicates that the debate over the definition of propaganda has continued for several decades without ever achieving widespread consensus (Black, 2001, pp. 126–127). However, this study proposes that a pattern of incomplete, repetitious framing on the part of TMN could itself be construed as manipulative because, as Black stated, if they are “engaging in inappropriate semantic behavior, then we can say they are engaging in propaganda” (2001, p. 135).

Unsurprisingly, propaganda has gone through many historical interpretations, including positive and negative semantics. Positive propaganda is an oxymoron and should be universally defined under an alternative nomenclature, such as “positive persuasion.” This clarification is relevant to this discussion and may be appropriate when considering initiatives to boost vaccine uptake behavior. For this article, propaganda constitutes a form of negative psychological manipulation through intentional misinformation; it is defined as “the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist” (Jowett & O’Donnell, 1999, p. 279).

Language, semantics, and the redefinition of words have been used to manipulate populations’ behaviors and thoughts for centuries. Indeed, some have argued that governmental tampering with the meanings of words can effectively reconstruct reality itself (e.g., Fairclough & Candlin, 1995), as supported by sociologist Jacques Ellul. Ellul details three non-exclusive effects of propaganda: the suppression of critical thinking, a conviction of truth in light of a false collective view, and a “sphere of the sacred” beyond reproach and questioning (Ellul, 1954, pp. 369–370). The last of these three effects, the “sphere of the sacred,” results in “a complete reconstruction of reality in the minds of its citizens” (1954, p. 371).


This section presents an analysis of dialogue from four transcripts (two from MSNBC and two from CNN) covering two weeks to determine whether TMN engaged in domestic propaganda activity. The four transcript excerpts are listed below in chronological order.

  1. Rachel Maddow on The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC)

Ivermectin livestock formulation — that’s a horse dewormer. Literally, people won’t take the vaccine because they’re super suspicious of that, but they’re taking horse-deworming medication that they’re buying at a feed store? For COVID? (Maddow, 2021, 21:05:03)

  1. Joy Reid on The ReidOut (MSNBC)

Now, the anti-vaxxers, they seem to have a thing for death and home remedies, claiming the new COVID cure is livestock dewormer. Yes, that’s right, a drug bought at a feed store meant to prevent parasites in pigs and cows and such, leading [to] an uptick in calls to poison control. This is a group ingesting medicine for an animal that weighs a ton or more than humans do. So, we get it. Talking sense into some of them is tough. (Reid, 2021, para. 8)

  1. Jake Tapper interviewing Dr. Anthony Fauci on State of the Union (CNN)

TAPPER: Poison control centers are reporting that their calls are spiking in places like Mississippi and Oklahoma because some Americans are trying to use an anti-parasite horse drug called ivermectin to treat coronavirus, to prevent contracting coronavirus. What would you tell someone who is considering taking that drug?

DR. FAUCI: Don’t do it. There’s no evidence whatsoever that that works. And it could potentially have toxicity, as you have just mentioned, with people who have gone to poison control centers because they have taken the drug at a ridiculous dose and wind up getting sick. There’s no clinical evidence that indicates that this works. (Tapper & Fauci, 2021, 10:20:08)

  1. Anderson Cooper, Brian Stelter, and Dr. Leana Wen on Anderson Cooper 360° (CNN)

COOPER: [Responding to Joe Rogan’s podcast earlier that same day] One of those drugs he mentioned, ivermectin, is something more often used to deworm horses. [The] CDC says there’s no evidence that works on COVID. Its increased usage has only led to a substantial increase in overdoses after a push by some on the far right. Ceding vaccine misinformation. Perspective now from our chief media correspondent and anchor of CNN’s Reliable Sources Brian Stelter and Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore Health Commissioner. Brian, this is obviously someone who has said on his podcast that that, you know, healthy young people probably don’t need to get vaccinations. What’s he saying about his condition?

STELTER: Yes, and he is one of the most influential figures in all of media, especially among young men. He has a podcasting deal with Spotify [worth] $100 million, but in the past, he has downplayed the vaccine. And in this case, he seems to have admitted he has COVID because it’s hurting him in the pocketbook. He had to […] postpone or reschedule one of his upcoming stage shows. So, you think the economic consequences might get people’s attention and […] maybe make his fans think differently about the threat of COVID. But he is trying to portray this as if he is feeling better now. He’s doing better now because of this cocktail of drugs and medications that he has taken. Of course, […] some of these are under emergency use authorizations. Others have been, you know, discouraged by the CDC and the FDA. But when you have a horse-deworming medication that’s discouraged by the government that actually causes some people in this crazy environment we’re in to actually want to try it—that’s the upside down where we’re in with figures like Joe Rogan.

COOPER: So, Dr. Wen, ivermectin is apparently given to deworm animals. Why are people using this? I mean, I know, you know, it’s being spread online and stuff. But what is the theory that it works?

DR. WEN: Well, I think there are some people who want to believe that there is a magic pill for COVID, which, of course, we would all want. But this is the main issue. So, with ivermectin, not only is it that […] there’s no evidence it works. It goes beyond that: We actually know that it doesn’t work. There was a systematic review looking at 10 randomized controlled trials that have been done […] in different countries looking at different doses of ivermectin. And they found that there was no benefit for ivermectin in reducing mortality, death, to COVID-19 [and] no reduction in symptoms or duration of symptoms for COVID-19. So, it does not work. (Cooper et al., 2021, 20:41:20)

In investigating potential conflicts of interest, we must first ask; Who owns MSNBC and CNN? Do they have shareholders that could consider IVM a competitive threat? MSNBC is part of NBCUniversal News Group, which Comcast Corporation owns. The latest data indicates that four of Comcast’s top shareholders are BlackRock Inc. (the second-largest shareholder with 6.89% of shares), State Street Corporation (fifth-largest, 3.84%), Wellington Management Company (seventh-largest, 2.68%), and Capitol World Investors (ninth-largest, 2.18%) (University of Texas at Austin Center for Media Engagement Moody College of Communication, n.d., pp. 6–7). These four corporations are also the top four shareholders of pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer Inc., with BlackRock holding 432 million shares valued at $23 billion, State Street holding 284 million shares valued at $15 billion, Capital World holding 256 million shares valued at $13 billion, and Wellington Management holding 199 million shares valued at $10 billion for a total of 1.171 billion shares in Pfizer at $61 billion (Stockzoa, 2022b). Additionally, BlackRock, State Street, and Wellington own a total of 44.3 million shares — worth over $8 billion — of Moderna, the second-most prolific COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer (Stockzoa, 2022a).

Pfizer is the largest distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States by a wide margin over other companies. As of March 22, 2023, approximately 401.7 million doses of its vaccine, made in cooperation with BioNTech, had been administered in the U.S. alone, leading its main competitor (Moderna) by about 150 million doses (Statista, 2023). More relevant to the period of the transcripts under analysis as of November 2021:

The COVID vaccine has brought in revenue of $24.3 billion. And Pfizer said it expects a total of $36 billion from the vaccine for all of 2021—nearly $12 billion more in revenue the final quarter of the year. And it said based on contracts it now has signed [that] it expects revenue [of] $29 billion from the COVID vaccine in 2022. And that’s not necessarily all it will bring in. The company said it now expects full-year 2021 revenue of between $81 billion [and] $82 billion, up $2 billion from its earlier guidance. It also raised its earnings per share outlook by about 3% to 5% above what it had been expected to earn. (Isidore, 2021)

Additionally, the four largest shareholders of Pfizer, three of which are in the top ten shareholders of Moderna, are also among the top nine shareholders of Comcast. Thus, it is reasonable to assert that any competitor being presented in a positive light would, in all probability, be discouraged by four of MSNBC’s largest shareholders, who happen to be the four largest shareholders of Pfizer.

CNN is a part of WarnerMedia, which is owned by AT&T. Six of AT&T’s top shareholders are BlackRock Inc. (second-largest, 6.76%), State Street Corp. (third-largest, 4.13%), Geode Capital Management (fifth-largest, 1.53%), Northern Trust Corporation (sixth-largest, 1.19%), Bank of America (seventh-largest, 1.18%), and Morgan Stanley Brokerage Accounts (eighth-largest, 1.05%) (University of Texas at Austin Center for Media Engagement Moody College of Communication, n.d., pp. 5–6). These six corporations are also among the top nine shareholders of Pfizer, with BlackRock (#1) holding 432 million shares valued at $23 billion, State Street (#2) holding 284 million shares valued at $15 billion, Geode Capital (#5) holding 109 million shares valued at $5.6 billion, Morgan Stanley (#6) holding 80 million shares valued at $4.1 billion, Bank of America (#8) holding 68 million shares valued at $3.5 billion, and Northern Trust (#9) holding 67 million shares valued at $3.4 billion for a total of 1.04 billion shares of stocks in Pfizer valued at $54.6 billion (Stockzoa, 2022b). Additionally, BlackRock, State Street, Geode, and Wellington own a combined 50.5 million shares of Moderna valued at over $9.168 billion (Stockzoa, 2022a). Six of the top nine shareholders of Pfizer are also among the top eight shareholders of AT&T. Thus, a cost-effective competitor being featured on a news-oriented talk show would naturally be discouraged by six of CNN’s largest shareholders, who are also among the top eight shareholders of Pfizer.

The mRNA vaccine was often touted as the only answer to the COVID-19 pandemic, with TMN already speaking of its anticipated arrival in the spring of 2020. There was a predisposition in TMN to embrace experimental gene technology as the only way out of the global pandemic, ostracizing anyone who challenged or deviated from that narrative. In response to positive outcomes among those afflicted with COVID-19 trying the cost-effective human version of IVM, the trusted news celebrities of TMN went on the offensive. Assuming that loyal viewers of MSNBC held total trust in network stars Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid, many believed that ignorant people were dying from poison by taking animal medication because they “seem to have a thing for death and home remedies” (Reid, 2021, para. 8). Likewise, Dr. Anthony Fauci, presented as the definitive authority on COVID-19 protocol with his then-title as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was framed as a savior due to his high status within society. His was the voice of guidance. In the third transcript, Jake Tapper framed IVM as a horse dewormer, and Dr. Fauci volunteered no further description.

As pointed out by Konrad Kellen in the introduction to Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda, modern propaganda operates “with many different kinds of truth — half-truth, limited truth, truth out of context” (Ellul, 1954, p. v). The third and fourth transcripts, with the influential power of CNN and news celebrities Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper alongside two medical doctors — one the Director of NIAID — spoke truthfully about the danger of taking the animal version of IVM, provided a robust base of persuasion. However, in all four transcripts, there was no reference to the human Nobel Prize-winning IVM, which had already garnered several studies showing significant promise against COVID-19. Dr. Wen dismissed these studies, citing only negative studies.

The fourth transcript (Anderson Cooper 360°) was a same-day response to the Joe Rogan podcast cited in the introduction. Surprisingly, on October 14, 2021, six weeks after both segments, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience to defend CNN’s position. The following is a crucial portion of the transcript with truncated dialogue but it remains in context.

Joe Rogan: They’re lying at your network about people taking human drugs versus drugs for veterinary —

Sanjay Gupta: Calling it a horse dewormer is not a flattering thing, I get that.

Joe Rogan: It’s a lie. It’s a lie on a news network, and it’s a lie […] that they’re conscious of. It’s not a mistake. They’re unfavorably framing it as a veterinary medicine.

Sanjay Gupta: Well, the FDA put this thing out, you saw that. Did you see that thing that the FDA put out?

Joe Rogan: What did the FDA put out?

Sanjay Gupta: It was a tweet, and it was snarky, I admit it. They said, “You are not a horse, you are not a cow, stop taking this stuff,” or something like that.

Joe Rogan: Why would you say that when you’re talking about a drug that’s been given out to billions and billions of people — a drug that was responsible for one of the inventors of it making the —

Sanjay Gupta: Nobel Prize!

Joe Rogan: A drug that has been shown to stop viral replication in vitro. You know that, right? Why would they lie and say that’s horse dewormer? I can afford people medicine, motherfucker. This is ridiculous. It’s just a lie.

Sanjay Gupta: I don’t think anyone is —

Joe Rogan: But don’t you think that a lie like that is dangerous on a news network when you know that they know they’re lying? You know that they know that I took medicine.

Sanjay Gupta: All right, hang on. The thing is, we’re going so fast, I feel like I’m missing —

Joe Rogan: Do you think that’s a problem, that your news network lies?

Sanjay Gupta: Well, I don’t think —

Joe Rogan: They lied and said I was taking horse dewormer. First of all, it was prescribed to me by a doctor, along with —

Sanjay Gupta: They shouldn’t have said it was —

Joe Rogan: — a bunch of other medications.

Sanjay Gupta: If you got a human pill — because there were people that were taking the veterinary medication and you’re not, obviously. You got it from a doctor, so it shouldn’t be called that. Ivermectin can be a very effective medication for parasitic disease and, as you say, it’s probably, I think — what, a quarter billion people have taken it around the world? I get that.

Joe Rogan: More, way more. Way more. Billions of people have taken it.

Sanjay Gupta: Can I just come back to the one … I want to talk about —

Joe Rogan: Before we get to that, does it bother you that the news network you work for out and out lied? Just outright lied about me taking horse dewormer.

Sanjay Gupta: They shouldn’t have said that.

Joe Rogan: Why did they do that?

Sanjay Gupta: I don’t know.

Joe Rogan: You didn’t ask? You’re the medical guy over there.

Sanjay Gupta: I didn’t ask. I should have asked before coming on your podcast.

Joe Rogan: It’s defamatory.

Sanjay Gupta: Yeah. They shouldn’t have done that.

Joe Rogan: It’s a lie.

Sanjay Gupta: Well, see, here’s the thing. You can have nuanced discussions about this, right?

Joe Rogan: We can’t have nuanced discussions about lying about someone taking horse dewormer.

Sanjay Gupta: Most of the people I know, I think, would be glad that you … I don’t think that there’s any —

Joe Rogan: Eh, there’s a lot of people out there that weren’t glad, but my point is, you’re working for a news organization. If they’re lying about a comedian taking horse medication, what are they telling us about Russia? What are they telling us about Syria? Do you understand that that’s why people get concerned about the veracity of the news? (Rev, 2021)

Dr. Gupta admitted, at least, that CNN framed IVM negatively, thus supporting a probable element of propaganda from the source.

In the context of the analysis period, humanity shared a common enemy: the COVID-19 virus. This truth was a global galvanizer, and TMN assumed the role of the trusted medium through which protocols and strategies from experts were presented. If the world’s population failed to comply with TMN directives in defeating humanity’s common enemy or failed to embrace the singular narrative from the proposed experts, it would be the fault of those who did not follow — the skeptics, the vaccine-hesitant, and the “science deniers” — and these descriptions led to the vicious ostracization of anyone who asked reasonable questions.

Forty years ago, 50 companies were in control of American media. Today, 90% of all American media, and all of TMN, are owned by six corporations: Comcast, Disney, CBS, Viacom, NewsCorp, and AT&T (Louise, 2020). Advertising is the lifeblood of TMN and, at the national level, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Journalistic ethics, conflicts of interest, and objectivity are naturally challenged at this financing level, as TMN competes for the most crucial advertising deals with companies that will both deliver and protect the brand.

In this case study, the underlying influence of large pharmaceutical corporations such as Pfizer must be considered, given the reality of a low-cost potential alternative to their products threatening their profit margin. The potential for millions of dollars of advertising to be undone over a non-monetary newsworthy story may be significant within TMN board meetings about their most prominent advertising sponsors. This potential conflict of interest is apparent.

In line with this analysis, specifically regarding COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy, and the social responsibility to “do the right thing,” there is a clear trend regarding TMN’s description of IVM. COVID-19 is the common enemy we all want to defeat, and TMN tells us exactly and strictly how to get there. TMN may censor stories of any alternative means of mitigation that do not fall within official guidance or conflict with corporate interests.

Limitations and Additional Analysis

This analysis could be strengthened by including missing relevant data, such as the total frequency of the term “horse dewormer” used as a singular description in TMN broadcasts. Similarly, surveying the general public could have a corroborating effect after meeting statistical thresholds. To determine the propagandistic success of the disseminated information, a simple two-question litmus test for laymen would suffice: “What is ivermectin?” and, if the answer is “a horse dewormer,” “Where did you learn that?”

Not to be overlooked are the credible stories of people poisoned by ingesting the veterinary version of IVM — yet another one-sided framing of the “ignorant” with no accountability for how this phenomenon began in the first place. Even so, in the context of the considered transcripts, the most widespread story of hospitals being overwhelmed due to IVM poisoning overdoses was quietly debunked as a “hoax” (Soave, 2021). CNN scrambled for damage control to maintain credibility, even pointing the finger at MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for “jumping to conclusions” while claiming that IVM poisonings were happening (Dale, 2021). Within the context of propaganda, this story was understandably exploited by TMN to a significant degree, bolstering the incomplete description of IVM as a horse dewormer while continuing to manufacture public perception.

Notably, these four transcripts cover a narrow scope within the context of all media. Talk shows, comedy sketches, and other areas of mass media should be considered potential force multipliers. Celebrity Jimmy Kimmel suggested on live television that the “unvaccinated guy who gobbled horse goo” should be denied medical care and left to die (Jones, 2021), an excellent example of supporting propaganda rhetoric.

The analysis’s most apparent weakness is the assumption that TMN engaged in propaganda to please the elites who possess significant interests in the mRNA COVID vaccines and the medium of information delivery. Between the advertising capital of Pfizer and Moderna and the single-solution endorsement of the Federal Government alongside non-stop fear stimuli, is such alleged propaganda even necessary? Without a scientific consensus, is IVM that significant of a competitive threat to investment giants that such a conspiracy would be warranted? These are legitimate questions that call for a closer examination of possible causality.

On December 14, 2020, the first COVID-19 gene therapy interventions — the mRNA vaccines — rolled out across the U.S. This experimental technology bypassed standard U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization protocols through emergency use authorization (EUA). Several criteria are required for experimental medical interventions to be legally used through EUA. Section III, B, 1, d, of the FDA’s Guidance on Emergency Use Authorization of Medical Products and Related Authorities, states, “For FDA to issue an EUA, there must be no adequate, approved, and available alternative to the candidate product for diagnosing, preventing, or treating the disease or condition (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2017). In this light, cost-effective human IVM constituted a blatant threat to billions of dollars in profit due to federal regulations. If IVM was universally accepted as a treatment for COVID-19, the mRNA technology could not even be legally deployed. Competition would become moot, as the COVID-19 vaccine would be completely disqualified, eliminating over $100 billion in profits.


This analysis revealed that the framing effect of repeated TMN broadcasts represents a powerful tool in steering the population toward a desired behavior. In this case, it functioned as a deterrent. This research revealed a conflict of interest between objective news reporting and billions of dollars in stakeholder profits due to threats from the FDA’s criteria for EUA. This dynamic represents a credible motive for broadcasting propaganda.

Due to its immense influence on the population, TMN warrants significant nonpartisan ethical oversight. Academic research in communication on fake news, disinformation, and misinformation is primarily aimed at online media. Still, TMN must be held to the same level of rigorous scrutiny, especially when evidence-based propagandistic behavior can adversely affect public health. If IVM does indeed help to reduce COVID-19 mortality, then TMN’s intentional framing of IVM as a horse dewormer has implications that extend well beyond ethical considerations.

Finally, a common denominator of existing research confirms that education is the best counter to propaganda. One researcher has argued for a universal method to expose propaganda and give our citizens “easy-to-apply tools with which they can critically examine today’s over-spun news” (Swanberg, 2019, p. 1897). Means of mitigating the effects of propaganda are underrepresented in academia, presenting a potential secondary avenue for future research. This research could further explain how the integrity of TMN is often accepted as a fact by the masses without question.


The author declares no conflict of interest.


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(Featured Image: “Coronavirus news” by frankieleon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)


  • Randy Vanadisson

    Randy Vanadisson is a writer, professional vocalist, music producer, and communication Ph.D. student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He completed a BA in anthropology with departmental honors and an MA in sociology from the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio, concentrating on social psychology, military psychological operations, perception, and linguistics. He served in the US Army’s intelligence branch from 1996-1999 and the Federal Air Marshal Service from 2002-2007. More information can be found at LMC3.org.