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Commentary

Biden Claims No Vaccine Existed When He Took Office, But Look When He Got His 2nd Shot

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President Joe Biden is still hot on the idea that his administration didn’t inherit any COVID vaccination strategy from the Trump administration — so much so that he actually said during a town hall meeting Tuesday night that “we didn’t have” the vaccine when he came into the Oval Office.

There are plenty of problems with that, as you’re probably aware of. For starters, Biden himself received the second shot of the coronavirus vaccine on camera nine days before he took office.

Yet, when talking with Anderson Cooper during the town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he seemed to forget this.

“The biggest thing, though, is that you remember … when you and I talked last, we talked about, it’s one thing to have the vaccine — which we didn’t have when we came into office — but a vaccinator,” Biden said. “How do you get the vaccine into someone’s arm?”

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Biden made the remarks as he patted himself on the back for getting the vaccinators out there.

According to CNN, Biden said that “we have made significant strides increasing the number of vaccinators. I issued an executive order allowing former retired docs and nurses to do it. We have over a thousand military personnel … We have gotten the National Guard engaged … Plus we have opened up a considerable amount of locations where you can get the vaccine.”

But then there’s that line: “we didn’t have [a vaccine] when we came into office.” As Steve Guest and others noted, he received his first dose in late December and his second in early January.

And keep in mind, he also did it on camera:

Yes, this is obviously a gaffe, but it’s a preposterous one when you consider how much publicity was generated when Biden got the vaccine in the first place. It’s also a telling gaffe in terms of the Biden administration’s messaging on the vaccine issue. There’s an inordinate amount of time spent blaming Donald Trump for allegedly leaving no vaccine plan behind.

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Biden pushed this line again on Tuesday, saying the Trump administration “did not have a plan” for vaccine rollout.

Vice President Kamala Harris made similar remarks during an interview with “Axios on HBO” that aired this week.

“There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations. We were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out,” Harris said. “In many ways, we are starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost an entire year.”

Almost immediately after the Biden administration was handed the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania, there was braying about the Trump administration’s lack of a vaccine plan.

“There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,” one source told CNN in a story published Jan. 21, one day after Biden took office.

“Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence,” another said.

This doesn’t necessarily align with the data. When Biden came into office on Jan. 20, the rolling 7-day average of vaccines administered per day was 892,399, according to The New York Times (an interactive chart with the article with the title “New reported doses administered by day” contains the number of daily doses with the weekly average of a given date). This was in the ramp-up phase of vaccine production — and yet, it wasn’t far off from the Biden administration’s target of 100 million shots in 100 days.

These doses apparently just found their way into arms. According to the president’s people, there was no plan, no cold chain to distribute vaccines that need to be stored at unusually low temperatures. This all just magically happened without a plan. And now, according to Biden, the administration didn’t even have the vaccine when he took office.

In terms of Biden’s greatest gaffe hits, this one isn’t going to win any awards. It’s certainly not up there with when he told an Iowa audience that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids” or when he said during a Democratic debate that keeping the record player on at night would ameliorate the damage done by segregation.

However, it’s still a pretty big whopper, one which would have unleashed the hounds of fact-checking-land just a month ago — when the sitting president had a different last name and party affiliation.

The fact-checkers were out again, but this time they were vigorously defending the president:

“It was a verbal stumble, a typical Biden gaffe, as he had already mentioned 50 million doses being available when he took office,” head Washington Post fact-checker Glen Kessler tweeted in response to former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Ex Trump officials should especially cool the outrage meter, as it just looks silly.”

So much for “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Things were no better at CNN.

“Biden had said just prior that there were ‘only’ 50 million vaccine doses when he took office,” CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale tweeted. “I’m looking into that claim (and a bunch of other claims Biden made tonight), but he clearly wasn’t trying to claim the vaccine did not exist at all under Trump.”

Actually, he was “clearly” claiming exactly that — in language so clear that even a liberal fact-checker should have been able to understand it. And CNN’s Cooper didn’t even try to correct it.

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Yes, it may have been a Biden gaffe, but it’s the kind of thing that would have been fact-checked ad nauseam just a month ago.

It’s not just that we can see the bias at work in terms of what the focus is. Biden administration officials are very on-message when it comes to loudly claiming they didn’t have a vaccine plan when they took over — and they haven’t really been challenged by the media. When CNN first reported it the day after the inauguration, the administration’s claims went uncontested. The same thing could be said for Tuesday’s town hall.

Someone should ask Biden how the vaccine found its way into his arm, then. Not only was there a shot, there was also someone to give it to him — and the mainstream media is suddenly too nice to our president to point that out.

UPDATE, Feb. 18, 2021: Following the publication of this article, the fact-checking outlet PolitiFact posted an article titled “In Context: What Joe Biden said about the vaccine supply he found when he took office.” After citing examples of Biden critics lambasting the president’s claim that “we didn’t have [the vaccine] when we came into office,” PolitiFact argued that “These are examples of Biden’s political opponents taking words out of context.”

“You can judge his meaning for yourself, but it’s clear to us that Biden didn’t mean there were no vaccines available before he took office,” PolitiFact said. This seems to be a questionable claim, however. Biden did indeed say “we didn’t have” the vaccine when he took office. His words were clear, despite PolitiFact’s apparent attempt to argue that the words he said actually meant something else. This does not mean that this was anything more than a gaffe, only that a reasonable person would, after hearing this statement from the president, assume he was asserting vaccines were not available on Jan. 20, 2021.

In fact, even Glenn Kessler, the editor and chief “fact-checker” at the liberal-leaning Washington Post, acknowledged on Twitter that Biden’s remark “was a verbal stumble, a typical Biden gaffe.”

That being said, PolitiFact is correct in noting the additional context to Biden’s remarks, which The Western Journal is including in this update.

“We have — we came into office, there was only 50 million doses that were available. We have now — by the end of July, we’ll have over 600 million doses — enough to vaccinate every single American,” Biden said, according to a White House transcript of his remarks.

“Here, look, we — what we did — we got into office and found out the supply — there was no backlog. I mean, there was nothing in the refrigerator, figuratively and literally speaking, and there were 10 million doses a day that were available,” the president also said.

Both those statements came before Biden’s assertion that “we didn’t have [the vaccine] when we came into office,” thus suggesting that the president was at least somewhat aware that a vaccine had, in fact, been developed and authorized before he took office. However, the gaffe-prone Biden made the now-infamous claim anyway.

While it is important to recognize Biden’s remarks in their full context, it is inaccurate to argue, as PolitiFact did, that Biden’s words did not mean what they sounded like they meant.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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