For months now, there has been a sort of unholy alliance between the most loyal Donald Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers. But over the weekend, Trump himself hosted a rally in Alabama that appears to have sown the seeds of what will likely be a messy break-up between these groups — and all it took was simply suggesting that people get the vaccine.
While speaking to the crowd in Cullman, a city in Alabama that is currently experiencing a state of emergency because coronavirus cases have completely overwhelmed its hospitals and intensive care units, Trump threw his support behind the vaccine. "And you know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do," he told the crowd. "You've got to do what you have to do, but I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It's good. Take the vaccines."
That simple statement, along with confirmation that he himself has gotten the vaccine, was enough to earn Trump some boos from an otherwise extremely friendly crowd — one where Qanon believers managed to snag front row seats to show their support. It got him just as many boos outside of the confines of the rally site, too, where staunch anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists expressed dismay at the apparent loss of one of their biggest allies.
Alex Jones, grifter extraordinaire and OG anti-vaxxer, took aim at Trump's endorsement of the vaccine. On his Monday show, Jones played a clip from the rally in which Trump says the vaccines work. "BS. Trump, that's a lie," Jones said after the clip ended, before rattling off some garbage statistics that purport to show the vaccines aren't effective. "Shame on you, Trump. ... Maybe you're not that bright. Maybe Trump's actually a dumbass."
Jones, who has regularly hosted people who spread misinformation about vaccines, is not the only person in conspiracy circles who is upset with Trump. Sidney Powell, the lawyer who latched onto Trump's false claims of voter fraud and turned it into an attempt to rejuvenate her career (instead she's just in a whole heap of legal trouble), said that the vaccine "either does no good or is making disease worse" after Trump's rally ended. Lauren Witzke, a QAnon true believer and flat Earther, said it was right for the crowd to boo Trump over the vaccine because "we are not lab rats." Even Bill Mitchell, perhaps the last man on Earth who believes Trump is still playing 5D chess, has created a defense for Trump's support for the vaccine. "I don't think he understood how dangerous this mRNA technology is," he wrote on Gab. "He just wanted it as fast as possible and trusted the 'experts,' always a mistake."
If this apparent turn on Trump tells us anything, it's that Trump was little more than a helpful tool for the anti-science community. At the end of the day, these groups are not partisan so much as they are opportunistic. Anti-vax sentiments can take hold in communities that typically tilt left, like wellness and yoga groups. They can also latch onto a political movement like MAGA, where figures like Trump have no problem sowing doubt about expert opinion and factual information if it happens to benefit them.
For people like Jones and other conspiracy theorists, the goal is simply to convert as many people as possible to their way of thinking. For awhile, this created a symbiotic relationship with Trump, who turned their anti-science and anti-government inclinations into an unholy coalition with more traditional conservative voters. Now Trump is losing his value to these groups, and they are ready to throw him under the bus.