In the final weeks before the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, then-Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris repeatedly expressed doubts about the process under which COVID-19 vaccines were being developed under then-President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort. PolitiFact has since dishonestly labeled as “false” a video that compiled clips of Biden and Harris’ various comments questioning the Operation Warp Speed efforts.
- In the Summer and Fall of 2020, Biden and Harris were saying they would not trust the COVID vaccines developed by Trump and expressed hesitance at taking them.
- Biden at one point said its “not likely” the vaccines will “go through all the tests and trials that are needed to be done” before the 2020 election.
- In September, Biden said, “When we finally do, god willing, get a vaccine, who’s going to take the shot? Who’s going to take the shot? Are you going to be the first one to say sign me up? They now say it’s OK. I’m not being facetious.”
- Biden said in September, “I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this point, the American people can’t, either.”
- In another statement, Biden said if the Trump administration could not answer questions about the vaccine, the American people “should not have confidence.”
- In one interview, when asked if she would take the vaccines as developed through Trump’s Operation Warp Speed effort, Harris would not say yes or no, but did say “I think that’s going to be an issue for all of us.”
- During the vice presidential debate, Harris said, “If Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I’m not taking it.”
- A TikTok user shared a compilation of various clips of Biden and Harris expressing their doubts about the vaccine. This video was also shared on Facebook.
- PolitiFact rated the video and the claim “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris distrusted COVID-19 vaccines” as “false.”
- “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris distrusted COVID-19 vaccines” is not an assertion made by the original TikTok video, though it is an evidently valid assertion based on what Biden and Harris themselves had said.
- Biden and Harris statements about the vaccine do demonstrate distrust in the vaccine.
- PolitiFact said the TikTok video clips “are selectively edited to take the statements out of context.” This statement by PolitiFact ascribe’s motive to the editing decisions of the video, where no evidence to support a motive claim exists. The video was edited to include multiple different comments made by Biden and Harris, showing them expressing doubt about the COVID vaccines. It is unclear if the video was edited to exclude context, or simply to gather numerous different clips into a short video format of the kind typically seen on TikTok.
- PolitiFact claims of the TikTok video, the “parts that are left out make clear that Biden and Harris were raising questions not about the vaccines themselves, but about then-President Donald Trump’s rollout of the vaccines and the risk that the effort would become rushed or politicized.” Within the TikTok video itself, it is evident Biden and Harris are raising questions about Trump’s rollout plans, so PolitiFact’s assertion that this context was cut out isn’t substantiated by what the actual video shows.
- PolitiFact is now attaching a “false” rating to the TikTok video as the Biden-Harris administration has missed its goal to fully immunize 160 million Americans and to ensure 70 percent of U.S. adult at least one shot by July 4.
PolitiFact itself asserts, “Biden, Harris distrusted Trump with COVID-19 vaccines, not the vaccines themselves.”
In another September 2020 comment, Biden said there was “an enormous pressure put on the CDC not to put out the detailed guidelines. Enormous pressure being put on the FDA to say the following protocol will have a giant impact on COVID. All these things turn out not to be true, and when a president continues to mislead and lie, when we finally do, god willing, get a vaccine, who’s going to take the shot? Who’s going to take the shot? Are you going to be the first one to say sign me up? They now say it’s OK. I’m not being facetious.”
Biden’s above comments suggest he did not simply distrust Trump with the vaccines, but also distrusted the CDC or the FDA.The fact that Biden felt the CDC and FDA were under political pressure from Trump and that they had put out information that turned out “not to be true” indicates he did not fully trust scientists either.
PolitiFact’s dishonest fact-checking tactic has resulted in Facebook adding a warning label to the video, as it appears on Facebook, “Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” As a result of PolitiFact’s dishonest fact-checking, the reality that Biden and Harris shared distrust of the vaccine development is obscured.
If PolitiFact honestly believed the TikTok video simply lacked enough context, it should have labeled the underlying video as “mostly true” or “half true” rather than any degree of “false.” The content of the video itself is absolutely “true” because the video shows exactly what Biden and Harris said. The claim that the video shows Biden and Harris clearly did share some form of distrust towards the U.S. COVID-19 vaccines — be it their actual development, or simply Trump’s connection (however loose) to their development — is also fundamentally “true” and wherever PolitiFact felt a more complete quote was necessary, it should have continued to regard the underlying statements (at the very least) as “mostly true” or “half true” to more accurately reflect the facts of the video, rather than giving it a “false” rating, which would inevitably lead to the video being obscured from wider dissemination.
The truth is, at a politically momentous time, Biden and Harris both shared comments questioning whether Americans should take the vaccine and Harris said she would not take it if Trump endorsed it.