Right-wing media outlet Newsmax had no choice on Tuesday but to issue two statements. One came from Elliot Jacobson, Newsmax’s executive vice president and chief content officer:

Newsmax is a strong proponent that Covid 19 vaccines are overarchingly safe and effective. while at the same time raising concerns that mandates infringe on personal liberty and privacy. We have seen no evidence to suggest LUCIFERASE or LUCIFERIN are present in any vaccines or that they are used as any sort bioluminescent marker.

And here’s the other, from parent company Newsmax Media:

Newsmax strongly believes and has reported that the Covid 19 vaccines are safe and effective. We do not believe the vaccines contain any toxic materials or tracking markers, and such false claims have never been reported on Newsmax. The many medical experts appearing on Newsmax have supported the use of the vaccine.

What on earth could have prompted these bizarre statements? A tweet from Emerald Robinson, Newsmax’s White House correspondent:

In advancing the bioluminescence claim, Robinson is following the grand tradition of people repeating garbage from social media. Here’s a Facebook post that warns about “LUCIFERASE ENZYME (MARK OF THE BEAST) IN C19 VACCINE.” Here’s another post, also on Facebook, citing a “patent” number “060606.” The three 6s and mark-of-the-beast terminology summon the apocalyptical narrative in the Book of Revelation (which is, as Robinson noted, the last one in the New Testament). Those who carry the mark “shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb,” according to Revelation.

It’s a clever bit of disinformation: Lucifer is a synonym for the devil, a fallen angel who defied God. The Latin roots of the name combine “lux” (light) and “ferre” (to bring or bear). As it happens, the word has a much less apocalyptic meaning in science: Luciferase is an enzyme that, under certain circumstances, produces light from living organisms (such as fireflies).

While none of the available coronavirus vaccines contain this enzyme, there is a connection between Robinson’s tweet and the real world: In July 2020, a report stated that scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston were using luciferase to “develop faster and more accurate diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as well as to analyze potential therapies and gain a clearer understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself.” And as The Post’s Philip Bump noted, some vaccine trials used luciferase, though it wasn’t included in the final products.

Which is to say, the two-thirds of Americans who’ve taken at least one vaccine dose needn’t worry about acquiring a subcutaneous glow.

We here at the Erik Wemple Blog don’t make a habit of debunking random covid disinformation on Twitter. It’s just that in this case, the person spouting that disinformation also attends briefings at the White House and routinely poses questions to press secretary Jen Psaki. Last May, for instance, Robinson asked about the funding relationship between the National Institutes of Health and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab, and whether President Biden had pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping on the origin of coronavirus. After jousting with Robinson for a bit, Psaki said, “I’m sorry, Emerald. I think you’ve had plenty of time today.”

In a September briefing, Robinson attempted to sneak in a question after Psaki had signaled the end of the proceedings. Robinson: “I have a question. On the polling — the president’s polling continues to collapse —” Psaki: “Emerald, I know you like to shout at the end. Next time, we’ll do it during the briefing.”

And on Oct. 19, Robinson tussled with Psaki about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s parental leave. When Psaki insisted on moving to another reporter, Robinson complained, “You give a little — a lot more questions to other people, Jen.” Perhaps that’s because those other people don’t spread rumors about vaccines carrying bioluminescent trackers!

The Erik Wemple Blog asked Robinson if we could chat with her about the luciferase posting. She replied, “What would you like to know about the covid vaccines?” We wrote back to ask if they were safe and effective, as her employer noted. She hasn’t replied to that one.

There’s no way to defend Robinson’s luciferase tweet; if there were, Newsmax would have given it a whirl. The tweet has been deleted.

The mentality that fed the luciferase tweet, however, remains accessible. On her Substack platform, for instance, Robinson posted a “public document” that includes this thought: “Now, we are watching the medical establishment inject literal poison into millions of our fellow Americans without so much as a fight.” Elsewhere, she called Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor, the “Dr. Mengele of our days.” And, as of writing, this false claim about vaccines and DNA is still up for her 438,000 Twitter followers:

What are the countermeasures for this sort of malicious activity? Well, Twitter has “temporarily locked” Robinson’s account “for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.” As for her presence in the White House briefing room, that’s a stickier matter. The White House Correspondents’ Association manages briefing-room seating assignments, which don’t entail an outlet-by-outlet content analysis. A recent internal WHCA email detailed the considerations that go into such decisions:

A committee of four members of our board will weigh factors such as an outlet’s reach, average daily/weekly/monthly audience (as verified by third-party data), coverage commitment (as evidenced by length of service on the beat, staffing in Washington, participation in pools and attendance at briefings), and diversity and inclusion (geographic variation, diversity of viewpoints, targeting of underserved audiences).

Any White House attempt to oust Robinson would invite court challenges over viewpoint discrimination.

The most forceful remedy lies with Robinson’s employer, Newsmax. Does it have the sense of civic responsibility to support this nonsense? Or does it care too much about the audience, ratings and money that this nonsense furnishes? We asked Newsmax if it remains confident in Robinson’s reporting and received this response: “Newsmax is currently reviewing the posts and during that period Ms. Robinson will not be on air but continue with duties for the network.”