Fact Check: Democrats Were NOT The Original 'Anti-Vaxxers' Less Than A Year Ago

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford
Fact Check: Democrats Were NOT The Original 'Anti-Vaxxers' Less Than A Year Ago Clipped Tape

Were Democrats the original "anti-vaxxers" less than a year ago? No, that's not true: Old tape of three Democratic leaders appearing to say they didn't support the COVID-19 vaccine is clipped. Partial footage doesn't tell the whole story. The leaders' full comments made clear they supported the vaccine and would recommend others get it, assuming scientists and public health professionals considered the shot to be safe.

The claim appeared in a July 19, 2021, Instagram post (archived here). It included clips of Democratic leaders Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo and Joe Biden. It read:

Reminder: Democrats were the original "anti-vaxxers" less than a year ago.

Users saw this on social media at the time of writing:

We'll address the clips in the order that they appeared, starting with Vice President Harris. It's worth noting that all the footage is from before a COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use in the United States. In the clip in the post, then-candidate Harris said:

If Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it.

That's a genuine quote from a vice presidential debate on October 7, 2020, but it was taken out of context. Harris' full quote was:

If the public health professionals, if Dr. [Anthony] 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.

You can watch her comments here:

Next, the post cuts to video of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He said:

Frankly, I'm not going to trust the federal government's opinion, and I wouldn't recommend to New Yorkers.

Again, that's a real quote, but it's taken out of context. In the same press briefing, which took place on September 24, 2020, Cuomo said that there were concerns about whether the vaccine had become politicized and that New York would independently review any vaccine authorized by the federal government. He said:

The way the federal government has handled the vaccine, there are now serious questions about whether or not the vaccine has become politicized.

And later:

We're going to put together a group for them to review the vaccine,

You can watch his comments here:

Finally, the post includes a short clip from President Biden, who appeared to answer a question about whether he would take an approved vaccine by saying:

It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it's being distributed.

This is the most misleading clip in the post for two reasons. First, as can be seen in the full video, dated October 15, 2020, then-candidate Biden was answering a question about whether he would mandate the vaccine, not whether he would take it. Second, the video was edited to exclude the part where he spoke favorably about the shot. Biden said:

The point is if the body of scientists say that this is what is ready to be done and it's been tested and it's gone through the three phases, yes, I would take it and I'd encourage people to take it.

You can watch his comments here:

By the time of writing, Biden, Cuomo and Harris had all gotten a COVID-19 vaccine and have encouraged others to do the same, as can be seen here, here and here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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