Biden questioned US COVID vaccines, and Harris said she wouldn’t take it if Trump said to – now PolitiFact is obscuring the video evidence

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.

Summary:

  • 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.
Candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris made multipl statements presenting distrust in the vaccines developed through Operation Warp Speed, an initiative brought forth under President Donald Trump to rapidly develop COVID vaccines. Biden and Harris shared concerns the vaccines would be finished before the 2020 election, a development that could have provided political benefit to Trump as he sought reelection.
Biden and Harris both sought to get out ahead of Trump’s assurances that a vaccine would be ready in a relatively short order of time. In September, as Trump said vaccines would be ready in a matter of weeks, Biden said, “The idea that there’s going to be a vaccine and everything’s gonna be fine tomorrow – it’s just not rational.” In September, Biden also said, “I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this moment the American people can’t either.” By the time offered his remarks suggesting he would trust scientists but not Trump,  multiple U.S. scientists and health officials involved in the Operation Warp Speed effort had already said they expect the vaccines to be safe and effective and had discussed its distribution.  There wasn’t a present scenario where Trump’s involvement in the vaccine development was at odds with the endorsements of the scientists and health officials involved in its development.
During her vice presidential debate with Mike Pence, Harris said, “If Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.” It is unclear, if in a scenario where both Fauci and Trump endorsed a COVID-19 vaccine, Harris would have viewed Trump’s endorsement as having cancelled out Fauci’s. She simply said if Trump told Americans to take the vaccine “I’m not taking it.” Harris did not describe a scenario where those scientists and health officials who had already spoken in favor of Operation Warp Speed’s efforts would have retracted their endorsements while Trump continued to push his endorsement of the vaccines.
Between Biden and Harris, both individuals were suggesting Trump’s involvement in Operation Warp Speed, however tangential, could somehow be a variable undermining the overall credibility of the vaccines, in spite of the existing and (at that point) well-established involvement of scientists in the vaccine development process.
Despite what Biden and Harris said to cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines developed under Trump’s watch, PolitiFact labeled as “false” a TikTok video compiling some of the moments in which they expressed doubts towards the vaccines. PolitiFact said the TikTok video makes the claim, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris distrusted COVID-19 vaccines.” The video itself only showed Biden and Harris making their comments, without any additional tag or video description asserting Biden or Harris. PolitiFact made no mention of whether it reached out to the video’s creator for a comment, so unless PolitiFact can read the creator’s mind, it is asserting an argument neither the creator or the video itself made. PolitiFact is attempting to insert an argument that was never made so that it could claim as “false” a video that accurately shows Biden and Harris were questioning the Operation Warp Speed vaccines, in spite of existing endorsements of those vaccines by the scientists and health officials involved in its development.

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.

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