When “sources tell” CNN something about the Trump administration — when it was in office or now that it’s recently departed — ears should prick up. Alarms should ring. You ought to print out the story and put a giant stamp saying “caveat lector” — “let the reader beware” — across the very headline of the thing.
In fact, that headline had the words right in it: “Biden inheriting nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan and must start ‘from scratch,’ sources say.”
Yes, apparently the Trump administration was just letting the invisible hand of the virus dictate where the vaccine went. This was “posing a significant challenge for the new White House,” CNN reported, as one would expect it might.
“The Biden administration has promised to try to turn the Covid-19 pandemic around and drastically speed up the pace of vaccinating Americans against the virus,” CNN’s M.J. Lee wrote.
“But in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration’s Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.”
There was almost a note of an apology from Lee on behalf of the administration: “The incoming White House now faces intense pressure to make good on the promises that Biden made during the campaign and the transition phase to drastically turn things around on the pandemic and conduct himself entirely differently from Trump when it comes to the virus and vaccine distribution,” she wrote.
“During the transition period, Biden was openly critical of what he described as a ‘dismal’ rollout of the Covid vaccines under the Trump administration, making clear that he placed significant blame on his predecessor for the situation he would ultimately inherit.”
Sorry, America — President Joe Biden wanted you to have the vaccine, but it looks like the Grinch stole the end of the pandemic. Pardon their dust, but it’s not their fault.
The quotes from the anonymous sources didn’t provide much detail, simply saying there was no plan. “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,” one claimed. “Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence,” another said.
There are a few alarms in Lee’s story, especially given an unusual dearth of details regarding how and when the incoming administration found out there was no plan.
Biden’s transition team met with vaccine officials in early December, Reuters reported. Last week, the transition team got vaccination data from the Trump administration, NBC News reported. Was it December? Was it last week?
And there are other questions left unanswered by Lee’s story, including the oddity of Operation Warp Speed having contained no plan to distribute the vaccines despite the fact the two approved vaccines need to be stored at a much colder temperature than most inoculations.
The so-called “cold chain” which ensures the vaccine is delivered and stored at the appropriate temperatures — that just sprang up out of nowhere while Trump administration officials fired off tweets about alleged election malfeasance?
Most importantly, Lee’s story is slow to mention that the coronavirus expert the media could always trust — Dr. Anthony Fauci — explicitly contradicted the claim when asked about it at a Thursday briefing:
Fauci: “No, I mean, we certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution.”
But are they really? “President Biden said that what was left was ‘abysmal,’ essentially,” the reporter continued. “Is there anything actionable that you’re taking from the previous administration? And does that delay your efforts to get the vaccine?”
“No, I mean, we’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the previous administration,” Fauci said. “You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all.”
And there’s the answer to how long it took the media to stop believing Dr. Fauci when his answers contradicted the Biden administration: One day. If you had that in the office pool, congratulations. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone should have taken that, so you’re not going to collect much.
Fauci’s quotes are in Lee’s story, too, added after the fact. They start in the eighth paragraph, essentially buried below unchallenged assertions the Trump administration had no plan.
Conservative radiologist (and occasional writer for National Review and Ricochet) Pradheep J. Shanker may have phrased it best:
It took less than 24 hours for the Biden team to lie to @cnn, and apparently, their reporters are fine with it.
This is going to be an awesome four years!
— Pradheep J. Shanker (@Neoavatara) January 21, 2021
Others had similar reactions:
CNN published something totally false?
I’m *shocked* pic.twitter.com/Lv0b0bvvNQ
— Caleb Hull (I’m With the CCP Don’t Ban Me) (@CalebJHull) January 21, 2021
Fauci just contradicted the CNN report saying no the Biden administration is not starting from scratch on vaccines.
So I expect CNN to retract or fix their report. Unless Fauci is lying?
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) January 21, 2021
CNN anonymous sources WRONG again, contradicted by Dr. Fauci
Asked if Biden is “starting from scratch,” Fauci says, “We certainly AREN’T starting from scratch”
Admits “taking some ideas from the previous administration”
There was ALWAYS a plan
This should be corrected ⬇️ https://t.co/8mRUlpom5X
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) January 21, 2021
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 21, 2021
What say you, M.J. Lee?
Fauci, a holdover from the Trump administration, said about the previous admin’s vaccine distribution efforts: “You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all.”
(In the last hour, Biden said Trump’s vaccine rollout had been a “dismal failure”)
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) January 21, 2021
Fauci is now a “Trump holdover.”
Again, picture this story being reported five days ago. Sources within the Trump administration say Biden has no vision for a vaccine rollout. They don’t even have to be voices who are aligned with Trump — they simply say the incoming president doesn’t have any plan. Dr. Fauci refutes this during a news conference.
Which quotes come first? Which ones are relegated to the eighth paragraph?
I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a set of questions more rhetorical than that. Caveat lector, indeed.
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