Woody Harrelson, who has a history of spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories, was criticized for appearing to denounce pandemic safety measures and vaccines during his “Saturday Night Live” monologue this weekend.
At the top of Saturday’s show, the self-proclaimed “redneck hippie” delivered. a crawling stand-up routine who touched on politics, glorified cannabis, promoted his new movie “Champions” — and seemingly likened pharmaceutical companies making COVID-19 vaccines to “drug cartels” that forced people to “take drugs.”
While hosting the latest episode of “SNL” with musical guest Jack White, Harrelson embarked on a long-winded story about a movie “script” he received in 2019.
“The movie goes like this,” Harrelson said. “The biggest drug cartels in the world are coming together and buying up all the media and all the politicians and forcing all the people of the world to stay locked up in their homes. And people can only come out if they take the cartel’s drugs and keep using them over and over again.”
“I threw out the script,” he continued. “I mean, who would believe that crazy idea? Being forced to use drugs? I do that voluntarily.”
For the record, public health officials have been encouraging people to remain cautious about COVID-19 and stay up to date on vaccinations, even as safety measures such as mask and vaccine mandates relax across the country.
According to a January report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, unvaccinated individuals were more than seven times more likely to die from COVID-19 in LA County than those who received an updated booster during the last coronavirus spike.
When this week’s episode of “SNL” aired on NBC, Harrelson caused a reaction on Twitter with his opening remarks. A person dismissed the monologue as “antivax nonsense”, while another questioned who at NBC “approved of this”.
“There are so many terrible things about big pharma, like insulin prices and the opioid epidemic, but people turn to vaccines instead when there’s no evidence against it,” tweeted @ryancbeard. “I do not get it.”
“F – you for giving this guy a platform to spread this anti-vax (BS),” tweeted @drosslmyers. “Call me a bad sport or whatever, but I don’t think it’s funny if we’re still in the middle of a disease that’s still spreading thanks to losers like this.”
Harrelson’s routine was acclaimed on the internet by controversial Twitter owner Elon Musk and others who called the Oscar nominee’s comments “perfect” and praised him for “speaking truth to power.”
It is worth noting that the star of “Hunger Games” and “True Detective” has spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic in the past. In a May interview with Vanity FairHarrelson inaccurately claimed that face masks don’t limit COVID-19 infections, claimed he didn’t catch the virus because his “immune system is strong,” said he “doesn’t believe in the germ theory,” and considered protective equipment on set — as masks and face shields – ‘rather absurd’.
Representatives for Harrelson and “SNL” did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment on Sunday.
Times staff writers Marissa Evans, Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.