Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield stated that federal officials’ fears of an open debate about COVID-19 vaccines likely contributed to widespread public reluctance to get the shots.
Speaking to Fox News this week, the former Trump administration CDC director referred to a recent court ruling that found the Biden administration violated the First Amendment by attempting to pressure social media firms to block content about COVID-19, including vaccines. Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general had filed a lawsuit accusing the administration of threatening Facebook, Twitter, and others with antitrust lawsuits or other legal changes aimed at their liability.
Dr. Redfield, a long-time virologist, said he knew people in the federal government who were concerned about Americans refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I always said… my position was to simply tell the American public the truth: vaccines have side effects.” “Tell them the truth without trying to disguise it,” he told Fox News.
The former federal health official claimed that the concept of the COVID-19 vaccine providing “complete” immunization is a “false perception” promoted by other federal officials.
“There was such an attempt to not let anybody get any hint that maybe vaccines weren’t foolproof, which, of course, we now know they have significant limitations,” he went on to say.
According to Dr. Redfield, Americans likely perceived a lack of open and honest discussion about vaccines and vaccine safety, prompting some to be hesitant to take the shot. At the same time, vaccine mandates imposed by the government, schools, and some businesses eroded public trust in them, he claimed.
“I think we should have, really, confidence and not be afraid to debate the issues that we think are in the public’s interest and just tell the public the truth,” the former director of the CDC said.
Several medical professionals, skeptics, and journalists were censored or had their accounts suspended by Twitter, Facebook, and Google-owned websites during the pandemic for publicly questioning the safety or effectiveness of vaccines. For example, in August 2021, independent journalist Alex Berenson’s Twitter account was suspended for allegedly and repeatedly violating the company’s policies regarding COVID-19 “misinformation,” and Mr. Berenson later claimed that government officials pressured the social media firm to target his account.
Installments of the “Twitter Files,” which were released by multiple journalists beginning in late 2022, after Elon Musk’s takeover, revealed extensive communications between various federal agencies, including the FBI, and former top Twitter officials. Following Mr. Musk’s rebranding, Twitter is now known as X.
Order of the Court
An appeals court recently partially upheld a ruling that the Biden administration must limit its communication with social media companies in accordance with the companies’ content moderation policies. The Department of Justice filed a motion earlier this week with the Louisiana-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to seek clarification on the court’s recent ruling, in which a panel of judges found that a lower court’s ruling in the case was “broader than necessary.”
Instead, the appeals court limited the restrictions imposed by Judge Terry Doughty, the chief U.S. district judge for the Western District of Louisiana, to the CDC, the FBI, the Surgeon General’s office, and the White House. This means that those agencies will be unable to communicate with social media companies such as Facebook, X, YouTube, and others about their content policies.
Earlier this year, the district court imposed limitations on the Department of State, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
However, in its Sept. 8 order, the appeals court panel stated that the lower court “did not err in determining that several officials… likely coerced or significantly encouraged social-media platforms to moderate content, rendering those decisions state actions.”
“In doing so, the officials most likely violated the First Amendment,” wrote the judges.
In a strongly worded ruling in July, Judge Doughty granted an injunction and found “substantial evidence” of a far-reaching censorship campaign on behalf of the federal government.
Moreover, the judge noted that the “evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario” to the effect that “during the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.'”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry stated at the time that the injunction prevents the administration “from censoring the core political speech of ordinary Americans” on social media.
“The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive with senior federal officials deciding that they could dictate what Americans can and cannot say on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms about COVID-19, elections, criticism of the government, and more,” Mr. Landry said in a written statement.