Colbert Shows How COVID Antivaxxers Would Have Reacted to Polio (Video)

Don’t worry, needles weren’t actually made out of Stalin’s mustache


On Monday’s episode of “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert kicked things off with a gag that imagined what it would have been like if the right wing antivaxxers bedeviling COVID-19 vaccination efforts had been around during the 1950s, when the polio vaccines was rolled out. The results are exactly what you think.

The gag was inspired by a comment Dr. Anthony Fauci made recently about the amount of disinformation there is about the COVID-19 vaccines, saying “We probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that’s being spread now.”

So that’s the thing “The Late Show” imagined. The clip, which played as Monday’s cold open, began as always with news footage summing the situation up. Then came the gag itself, a fake 1940s-50s black and white newsreel similar to the current events clips that used to play before movies in the decades before TV news programs made them obsolete. (The last American newsreel ran in 1967, in case you’re curious.)

The fake newsreel itself basically takes the kind of insane right wing talking points that have defined much of America’s COVID-19 discussion and applied them to 1950s current events. Presented by “The Facebook Variety Hour,” the clip features gems like “look how thin those vaccine needles are. Could they be made from the whiskers of Stalin’s mustache?”

The clip’s narrator also claims the polio vaccine means “The Cubans can track your children and use their hula hoops as missile targets.” The clip also urges people to buy a button that says “Don’t Salk My South Dakota,” a parody of the real life “don’t Fauci my Florida” shirts being sold by that state’s governor.

What we’re saying here is that Colbert’s joke is only slightly exaggerated from real life. Watch the clip below:

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