The rightwing Fox News host Laura Ingraham has stoked outrage by announcing that the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff had tested positive for Covid-19 – and applauding as she did so.
One critic called the host a “merchant of death”. Another said he was “not sure when hate became a Christian value”.
Gen Mark Milley became a target of rightwing anger after extensive reporting showed how he worked to contain Donald Trump at the end of his time in power, keeping US armed forces out of domestic affairs.
Milley has also defended the teaching in military institutions of critical race theory, an academic discipline which conservatives have turned into a profitable election issue.
On Monday, Ingraham introduced a section of her show called Positively Boosted, in which she gleefully recounts which vaccinated public figures have tested positive.
Clapping and smiling, she said: “Triple-vaxxed joint chiefs chairman Mark Milley, our favorite Mark Milley, tested positive for Covid yesterday.
“And who else? Gen David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, also positively boosted.”
Earlier, a spokesman for Milley said the general was “experiencing very minor symptoms and can perform all of his duties from the remote location. He has received the Covid-19 vaccines including the booster”.
A spokeswoman for Berger said: “The performance of his duties will remain unaffected.”
More than 850,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US, the vast majority unvaccinated. Federal authorities have repeatedly said that breakthrough infections are possible, particularly from the Omicron virus variant.
Nonetheless, like other public health measures, the Biden administration’s armed forces vaccine mandate has become a target of conservative anger.
On air on Monday, after a brief discussion of reports of a senior Vatican official also testing positive, Ingraham said: “We certainly hope they’re all healthy and fine. But stop pushing your mandates.”
Amid widespread criticism, Kim Masters, an editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter, said Ingraham was “absolutely disgusting and so are [Fox Corporation chairman and chief executive] Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch for giving her a platform”.
“These monsters are merchants of death,” Masters wrote.
James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large of America Magazine, said: “Laura Ingraham is often described as someone in favor of ‘Christian values’.
“But the last time I checked, we’re supposed to love our enemies, not celebrate when they get sick. Jesus had compassion for the sick; he didn’t laugh at them. Not sure when hate become a Christian value.”
Others pointed to Fox News’ own strict vaccination requirements for staff.
Ingraham also made news on Tuesday with an interview with Northern Virginia magazine in which she said she was not yet ready to back Trump for president again.
Asked about online criticism, she said she did not read it, adding: “I’m in a job where controversy is just part of the daily routine.”