News Analysis Jul 27, 2021 3:41 PM EST

Facebook 'fact checker' Politifact falsely claims Biden, Harris didn't distrust Trump's vaccine

Biden and Harris did raise serious doubts about a vaccine made under the Trump administration while they were campaigning last year.

Facebook 'fact checker' Politifact falsely claims Biden, Harris didn't distrust Trump's vaccine
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In the fall of 2020, during election season, Reuters reported that then Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris said that she would not trust a vaccine from the Trump administration.

Politifact reported in July 2021, however, that Harris did not say that. In a headline, Politifact wrote: "Biden, Harris distrusted Trump with COVID-19 vaccines, not the vaccines themselves."

A video flagged as false by Politifact contains statements from Harris made during an interview with CNN. These statements were widely believed by many, many journalistic outlets to be casting doubts on vaccines made under the Trump administration.

Politifact fact checked not Reuters, nor any of the dozens of other outlets, including this one, that reported on Harris' remarks in the fall of last year, but a TikTok video from May 2021, which is still in circulation. The video, Politifact states, "suggests that they actually had reservations about the safety of the vaccines."

The video "contains clips of statements made by Biden and Harris appearing to cast doubt on the vaccine while they were campaigning last year." Politifact writes that the post, once it appeared on Facebook, was "was flagged as part of Facebook's efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed."

Biden and Harris did raise serious doubts about a vaccine made under the Trump administration while they were campaigning last year. Politifact quotes these statements, but then goes on to say that "The video was selectively edited to leave out the context of their statements. Their full statements show they were raising doubts about Trump's trustworthiness, his ability to roll out the vaccines safely and the risk of political influence over vaccine development."

Harris had spoken to CNN about vaccines and the administration, per Reuters, "'I would not trust Donald Trump,' Harris said, saying she would be convinced of the efficacy of a vaccine only if someone credible were vouching for it as well. 'I will not take his word for it.'"

CNN reported that "Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said that President Donald Trump's word alone on any potential coronavirus vaccine is not enough."

CNN wrote about the interview: "Asked by CNN's Dana Bash in a clip released Saturday whether she would get a vaccine that was approved and distributed before the election, Harris replied, 'Well, I think that's going to be an issue for all of us.' 'I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he's talking about,' she continued... 'I will not take his word for it.'"

NBC reported on Harris' remarks as well, saying that "Sen. Kamala Harris criticized President Donald Trump's push to have a coronavirus vaccine ready for distribution before Election Day, painting the president as willing to use his power for political advantage."

NBC reported the quote, and went on to say that "Harris, Democratic nominee Joe Biden's running mate, also expressed skepticism that health experts would get the final say on the safety and efficacy of a vaccine.

"'They'll be muzzled, they'll be suppressed," NBC quoted Harris as saying in the CNN interview with the then-candidate, "they will be sidelined because he's looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days and he's grasping to get whatever he can to pretend he has been a leader on this issue when he is not."

In emails released via a Freedom of Information Act Request by BuzzFeed News, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was heading up the COVID response under the Trump administration, replied to the question: "The news media is reporting that the White House has muzzled you. Is that true?"

Fauci replied: "...I have not been muzzled," going on to describe his media plans, "I will be on multiple TV shows tomorrow and was on FOX this AM. No one is censoring me."

When another columnist asked Fauci if he was being suppressed, Fauci said: "I have never been given orders to get approval from the VP’s [Mike Pence] people to speak publicly about coronavirus. Ever since I have been doing this since the Reagan administration, whenever a member of the Executive Branch such as me gets invited and goes on National TV such as the Sunday Talk shows, there is always a routine process of clearing it with your department (in this case HHS) who then clears it with the White House… I have never been muzzled or told that I could not speak out publicly about anything during this administration."

Politico reported: "Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said she wouldn't take President Donald Trump's word on the reliability of any coronavirus vaccine released before the election."

"Harris' concerns," Politico wrote, "come after a growing number of health officials and politicians, including Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said the administration's inconsistent approach to the coronavirus could solidify American’s skepticism on the safety of a vaccine."

People magazine ran the headline: "Kamala Harris Says 'I Would Not Trust Donald Trump' with Coronavirus Vaccine as Death Toll Rises"

The Hill reported that Harris said: "I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump, and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he's talking about."

Time Magazine named Kamala Harris and Joe Biden Person of the Year, singular, when they were then candidates on the Democratic presidential ticket.

Harris and Biden later took the vaccine themselves as soon as it was available. The vaccines were manufactured under the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, an initiative launched in the early days of the pandemic. Under Warp Speed, the Trump administration gave large grants to six pharmaceutical companies to create a vaccine. Each pair of companies worked on the same approach, so that three total approaches were tried, and each approach had double the chance of success as if just set of researchers were working on it.

Pfizer, which was the first company to come out with a vaccine, declined to take federal funds for their research. The administration pre-bought millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine anyway, just to be sure that whichever vaccine product was proven to be effective first would be available to the American public.

The Department of Defense has said the creation of a vaccine typically can take more than more than 6 years to finish, and the Trump administration undertook the the making of a successful vaccine in only 14 months. The DOD detailed the process of a vaccine, including trials testing and plans for distribution to the general public.

Trump said Operation Warp Speed was a "massive scientific, industrial, and logistical endeavor in his May 2020 announcement of the project," and said it would require collaboration between American businesses, scientists, the military, and the federal government to get it done.

Harris later claimed that there had been no national vaccination strategy under the Trump administration. In an interview given to Axios in February, Harris said that "The challenge is what I explained to the mayors, there was no stockpile [of vaccines],... There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations, we were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try to figure it out."

"In many ways we are starting from scratch on something that's been raging for almost an entire year," Harris said. MSNBC's Nicole Wallace repeated Harris' claims, saying that "Operation Warp Speed didn't do anything to get a needle into an arm." Politifact has not yet weighed in on these claims.

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