The mainstream media fact-checkers ignored Vice President Kamala Harris’ false claim about “starting from scratch” the process of distribution and vaccination against COVID-19.
Harris was asked about the problems with the administration’s response to the pandemic after one month in office during an interview with Axios co-founder Mike Allen that aired Sunday on HBO.
The vice president lied when she claimed that Joe Biden’s administration did not inherit a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. “There was no supply … of vaccines,” Harris responded. “There was no national strategy or vaccination plan. We were leaving it up to states and local leaders to figure it out. And so, in many ways, we’re starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost a full year.”
Last month White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci debunked a CNN report containing a claim quite similar to Harris’ comment. “We’re certainly not starting from scratch because there is an activity in the distribution,” Fauci said during a White House press briefing.
A false statement?
While it is true that the vaccination process started slow, the reality is that it was nothing out of the ordinary, as the federal government distributed vaccines nationwide based on capacity and populations, and state governments and their hospital systems had to adapt to the timing of the vaccine and perfect their coordination in the process of administering the doses.
Then, as the days went by, after state systems adapted to the vaccination process, the administration of doses accelerated dramatically. In the final days of the Trump administration, states were administering around an average of 1.16 million doses per day (that’s in the last week of the Republican administration) and by Monday, January 25, those vaccinated had risen to nearly 1.5 million. Biden was only days into his promotion and was continuing the plan implemented by the Trump administration.
Today that figure is 1.67 million doses administered per day, according to data from The New York Times. A considerable increase, but not out of the ordinary if one follows the improvement of the process day by day.
That, which indeed seemed good, also meant a problem, as there were inoculation centers that were running out of vaccines due to their rapid adaptation, which frustrated health authorities, as they had to cancel appointments while receiving new doses.
The main problem between the Trump administration and state governments was not the lack of a distribution plan, but of communication. Or at least that is what several states complained about, claiming that they could not coordinate well to put together an inoculation plan if the federal government was not clear about the guidelines. Biden promised to improve communication with the states.
The United States, at that time, had administered some 22.73 million vaccines. Today that number is considerably higher: 52,884,365. But it should be kept in mind that vaccination had been improving and that hospital systems were increasingly adapting to the inoculation process.
It should be recalled that Operation Warp Speed (OWS) was carried out by the Trump administration. Never in the history of mankind had such a rapid antidote manufacturing process been carried out for such a recent virus, and the reduction of bureaucracy in the process helped a lot. It was clear that the organization process, taking into account the characteristics of the doses, would initially be complex, not to mention that the government was in the midst of a transition of power.
Fact checkers missing
According to Fox News, “Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker who famously kept a tally of falsehoods uttered during the Trump presidency, has yet to weigh in on Harris’ statement.”
“Over the weekend, Kessler spent much of his time fact-checking former President Trump’s legal team during the Senate impeachment trial. One of the claims he tried to fact-check was in defense of Harris, whom Trump’s team attacked for promoting the Minnesota Freedom Fund last year,” the outlet reported.
Fox News also commented that CNN’s star fact-checker, Daniel Dale, “spent the weekend fixating on Trump’s defense team,” but that “neither he nor the rest of CNN’s fact-checking team has addressed Harris’ discredited claim.”
According to Fox News, “the CNN story that Fauci shot down from the White House press briefing room last month quoted unnamed Biden officials, and the anti-Trump network heavily promoted his now-disproven “scoop” on air.”
PolitiFact, so far, was the only prominent fact-checker to challenge Harris’ claim as “incorrect.”
On the other hand, Axios, the news outlet to whom the vice president lied, “strangely failed to fact-check her by deleting a tweet that referenced Fauci’s earlier comments while sharing the clip on Twitter,” Fox News said. They regretted it.
Another serious fact is that while the fact-checkers shrug it off, Vice President Harris’ lie was echoed as truth elsewhere. “PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor took the vice president at her word during her appearance Monday on MSNBC,” Fox News noted.