By Jim Geraghty, National Review
Do I believe that hip-hop star Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend in Trinidad received a COVID-19 vaccine and then developed swollen testicles and became impotent? Let’s just say I am going to wait for the full review in The Lancet medical journal before drawing any firm conclusions. I also might want a second opinions from the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Nature, Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, Sloan-Kettering, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
But there is something spectacularly hilarious about this absurd turn in the national debate about COVID-19 vaccinations, where no less a figure than Dr. Anthony Fauci felt the need to go on national television and say, no, there is no evidence that the vaccine will make your testes blow up like a pair of balloons in some sort of twisted Ralph Bakshi-animated nightmare.
There is also something hysterical and ludicrous about the fact that media fact-checkers at places such as USA Today and PolitiFact felt the need to “fact check” a tweet from a hip-hop star that sounded one step removed from the urban legend that Little Mikey from the Life-cereal commercial died from the explosive effects of mixing Pop Rocks candy with Coke.
The White House apparently felt the need to reach out to Minaj and offered to connect her with a doctor with expertise. MSNBC’s Joy Reid did a whole segment denouncing Minaj, and there have been critical pieces about Minaj at CNN, Vox, CNBC, the BBC, and elsewhere. Minaj claims she is in “Twitter jail,” while Twitter insists it has not shut down her account. The late-night comics made her the butt of their jokes. Overnight, she’s become something akin to Public Enemy Number One.
Her claim of a COVID-19 vaccine inflating testicles is nonsense, of course, but there was a time when medical, political, and cultural experts didn’t go to DEFCON One if a celebrity had nutty beliefs about medicine or anything else. Lord knows we’ve joked about Gwyneth Paltrow’s nonsensical health recommendations for years.
The current COVID-vaccine opposition was built upon preexisting anti-vaccine beliefs, which were heavily fueled by Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and other anti-vaccine activists who were given a welcome platform by Oprah Winfrey, among others. (And this isn’t even getting into Robert Kennedy Jr.) You probably don’t want to know about Sandra Bullock’s facials, where Josh Brolin got sunburned, or what’s in the Kardashians’ smoothies. But rest assured that Demi Moore only uses “highly trained medical leeches.”
Celebrities are weird. They don’t really live in what you and I would consider the real world. Their fabulous fortunes and fame are often directly tied into their appearance and the perception of youth, which drives them to go to ever more extreme lengths to ensure that they keep looking young and in their physical prime.
But now, in the 20th month of a global pandemic that the current president pledged to “shut down,” a ludicrous tall tale from a hip-hop star must be treated as if it’s a Russian intelligence disinformation campaign. The reaction of public-health experts suggests that they genuinely believe Minaj’s tweet about her cousin’s friend’s testicles will convince some portion of the public to not get vaccinated.