Many people have around half a million followers on Twitter, and many people with a large number of followers on social media elevate obviously false claims about public health or flatly reject the idea that the United States should embrace religious diversity. Very few of them, though, are also members of the White House press corps, empowered to question White House press secretary Jen Psaki on whatever tidbit piques their curiosity on a given day. There is probably only one: Robinson, one of Newsmax’s White House correspondents, having previously held the same position at One America News.
“Dear Christians: the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked,” she wrote. “Read the last book of the New Testament to see how this ends.”
After it prompted a lot of outcry (and no small amount of head-scratching), Robinson deleted that tweet. But others in the same vein remain. For example:
This idea that the vaccines contain the compound “luciferase” has been debunked in every sense that Robinson is trying to deploy it. The “lucifer” in “luciferase” is from the Latin words meaning “light” and “carry” — because it’s the compound that causes bioluminescence in organisms including fireflies. Because it gives off light, the compound is useful in medicine, allowing doctors to observe phenomena such as vaccine response more quickly than with blood tests. Some testing for the coronavirus vaccine used luciferase in trials, but it is not present in the final vaccines.
Regardless, it has nothing to do with Lucifer, a name often used to refer to the Devil in Christian theology — except that Lucifer’s name, too, stems from the Latin for “light” and “carry,” again as a function of the stories told about his emergence. (In the Book of Luke, Christ says he saw the Devil “fall like lightning from heaven.”) Suggesting that luciferase is somehow related to Lucifer is like suggesting that a bibliography is religious because it has the same root as “bible.”
None of this matters to Robinson, not that this was debunked months ago or that her source for the most recent claim was a Twitter account with 100 followers named “thetruthiseek1.” (That account, too, is less popular than Biden.) It doesn’t matter to her that there’s no “mark of the beast” in the vaccines, either bioluminescent or, as she’d previously speculated, using a “quantum dot tattoo.” What matters to Robinson is that she stoke the idea that the federal government is acting in opposition to conservative Christian culture, a culture that she overtly states should be the exclusive root of American society.
That “Dear Christians:” formulation in her tweets is common. She’s informing that group in particular about the dangers of scary Halloween decorations or drag queens reading stories at libraries. But, mostly, she’s warning the group about persecution and politics, like George Soros influencing elections in Virginia.
Her pinned tweet, the one she wants you to see first when you visit her Twitter page, reads: “The pandemic is to force you to get the vaccine. The vaccine is to force you to get the vaccine passport. The vaccine passport is to force you into the social credit system. The social credit system is to force you into obeying the government.” That’s Emerald Robinson’s lens for the moment, the one that she brings into the White House briefing room, where she poses questions to Psaki.
For the most part, those questions are tepid, echoing whatever is animating the right at any given moment. For example, last month she questioned whether Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shouldn’t “get back on the bicycle” — a reference to mockery on the right targeting Buttigieg — instead of being on paternity leave. She pointed to polling suggesting that “65 percent of voters think that given what’s going on, he should come back to work.”
That poll was from the right-wing firm Rasmussen Reports. The survey question was as follows:
“Do you agree or disagree with this statement: ‘We’re in the middle of a transportation crisis, and Pete Buttigieg is sitting at home. Meanwhile, cargo boats are unable to dock and shelves are sitting empty. Pete needs to either get back to work or leave the Department of Transportation. It’s time to put American families first’?”
This is not exactly a good-faith effort to capture views about Buttigieg. But Robinson carried the results into the White House and asked Psaki to respond. She then tried to ask Psaki about vaccine mandates, without luck. (In August, Robinson alleged that the chief executive of Pfizer was stymied by Israel’s mandate because he wasn’t fully vaccinated — missing that the story was from early March, shortly before the CEO got his second dose.)
It is certainly the case that opponents of the Biden administration should be invited to ask questions of the administration, even ones rooted in dishonest polling. It is the case that the White House Correspondents’ Association should include representatives of a broad array of reporting outlets. (It should want multicultural representation, if you will.) But we should also recognize Robinson for the role she plays both on her network and on social media.