Media reluctantly fact-checks Biden on vaccinations

I’ll confess that I’ve been curious how the mainstream media’s army of fact-checkers were planning on handling the Biden presidency. After four years of watching CNN running daily totals of Donald Trump’s “lies or misleading statements” as if they were delivering the Major League Baseball box scores, surely they wouldn’t just close up shop and go find new jobs, right? And I will admit that on at least some occasions I’ve been pleasantly surprised, though the wording is almost uniformly far more gentle with Uncle Joe than his predecessor. Another of those instances popped up last night after Biden delivered a few rare remarks celebrating the success of the ongoing vaccination rollout. Biden proudly declared that we had set a record for the most vaccinations in a single day. That would certainly be some good news worth celebrating, but as the Associated Press fact-checkers were quick to point out, Joe botched the interpretation of the data pretty badly.

BIDEN: “On Saturday, we hit a record of 2.9 million vaccinations in one day in America.”

ANDY SLAVITT, special adviser to the White House virus task force: “On Saturday, we set an all-time, single-day record: nearly 3 million Americans vaccinated — a pace seen nowhere else in the world.” — leading off a task force briefing.

THE FACTS: The claim is off base.

The government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 2.9 million doses were recorded Saturday but that total comes from multiple days of vaccinations. Only 1.56 million doses were administered Saturday, as currently reported by the CDC.

So Joe Biden wasn’t off by a little. The number of vaccinations he claimed was almost double the actual figure. In reality, the number of vaccinations on Saturday was barely more than the total on the first day he was in office. The actual record was set on February 26, and even that was short of the figure Biden claimed.

That wasn’t the only botched figure Biden and his team were touting. His adviser, Andy Slavitt, went on to say that 60% of citizens aged 65 and older are now vaccinated as compared to 8% when Biden came into office. He also boasted that all of those grandmothers and grandfathers who are vaccinated will now be able to hug their grandchildren, many without even needing to wear a mask. The AP jumped on that statistic also.

THE FACTS: This is wrong. He is counting people who have received only their first dose as immune and able to mingle. Public health officials stress that only fully vaccinated people can safely be around each other and low-risk people without the distancing and masking recommended for the population at large.

The CDC says 61% of people over 64 have received at least one dose but only 31% are fully vaccinated.

So Slavitt more than doubled the number of seniors who are fully vaccinated. And even the ones who have received both shots in the past week or so will still not be cleared for normal interactions because it takes a couple of weeks after the final jab (or a single jab in the case of the J&J vaccine) before immunity fully sets in. Was Slavitt just misunderstanding the data and feeding his boss bad info or was this an intentional attempt to fluff up Biden’s record? We may never know.

The one thing I will note as you look through this particular fact-check is the wording. You’ll note that at no point does the AP suggest that Biden was “lying” or issuing a “misleading statement.” They describe Biden and Slavitt’s claims about the record-setting pace of vaccinations as being “off base.” They get a little bit rougher on Slavitt for the claim about senior citizens, going so far as to say he was “wrong.” That’s why it’s worth noting yet again that there is a huge difference between lying and being mistaken. During the Trump administration, “lying” was the default across most of the MSM. For the next four years, you can count on “misspeaking” being the go-to description.