From the Center
Former President Donald Trump praised the COVID-19 vaccine as "one of the greatest achievements of mankind" during an interview with Candace Owens on Dec. 21, a moment that quickly went viral and sparked divisions in coverage between left- and right-rated news sources.
While Trump has spoken out against vaccine mandates and vaccinating “very young people,” he strayed away from criticisms regarding the legitimacy of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines during his presidency.
Now, almost a year after exiting the Oval Office, Trump is praising the COVID-19 vaccine as a trademark achievement of his administration — putting him at odds with the portion of his supporters that are against getting the COVID-19 vaccines.
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“I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines,” Trump told Owens. “All are very, very good. Came up with three of them in less than nine months. It was supposed to take five to 12 years.”
While the Trump administration first established partnerships between public and private entities to accelerate the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine with Operation Warp Speed, the Biden administration continued to build on the foundation established while Trump was president and began distributing three vaccines in April 2021.
“I was surprised to hear it,” Trump said. “I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy.”
Biden piggybacked on this bipartisan goodwill and praised Trump for getting his booster shot, further establishing a “rare” common ground between the two presidents.
“It may be one of the few things he and I agree on,” Biden said. “People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us.”
Left- and Center-rated Media…
- accentuated how Trump “repeatedly undermined public health recommendations” while he was president (NBC News, Lean Left bias)
- emphasized how Trump backtracked on his “broad” approach to the pandemic during the 2020 Presidential Campaign because “he was worried about the effects on the economy and his own reelection chances” (Washington Post, Lean Left)
- Commentators writing for MSNBC (Left bias) highlighted how it’s “tremendously valuable” that Trump is willing to defy his supporters who are skeptical of the vaccine
- Salon (Left bias) said “the disavowal of Trump's most devoted followers underscores the extent to which medical misinformation and anti-vaccine sentiment have taken over the conservative base”
- The Hill (Center bias) predicted that Trump’s vocal support of vaccines won’t “change his support within the GOP”
- indicated that Trump previously gave “mixed signals” to his supporters on the vaccine (Axios, Center bias)
- National Review (Right bias) emphasized how Biden said Trump was not fit for president after thousands of Americans died from COVID-19 when just “as many people have died of Covid [in 2021] as in 2020”
- highlighted other hypocrisies, such as how Trump was “criticized” for enforcing a travel ban at the start of the pandemic, while Biden enforced one in November (Fox News, Right bias)
- Deseret News (Lean Right bias) called the “cooling of tensions” between Biden and Trump a “Christmas miracle” that’s important for national public health
- accentuated voices who believe Trump’s pro-vaccine stance is just an “election ploy” (NewsBusters, Right bias)
- The Spectator (Right bias) suggested that Trump’s pro-vax stance “might end up illustrating that he has lost touch with the movement he built”
- The Daily Signal (Right bias) criticized “leftist” media outlets for treating COVID-19 “like it was easily fixable” if Democrats were in charge in 2020
On another note, this story illustrates how the narrative around Trump presented by mainstream media outlets has not shifted a considerable amount since President Biden entered office. Even though Trump's pro-vaccine comments were seemingly positive, they still seemed to spark negative feedback and framing from the media.
Many voices across the spectrum viewed Trump's pro-vaccine comments as a pursuit to clean up his image for a potential 2024 presidental run. Throughout 2021, we saw a wide array of opinion and commentary pieces that debated whether or not Trump will run for president again. Vanity Fair (Lean Left bias) speculated that Trump is “systematically laying the groundwork to steal the 2024 election,” Business Insider (Center bias) painted what the “2024 GOP field could look like” with or without Trump, and an opinion columnist writing in The Washington Times (Lean Right bias) said Trump needs “clarity and unity of purpose” if he decides to run again.
While left- and right-rated media sources continued to promote partisan discourse about Trump's political career, center-rated outlets were more likely to accentuate the common ground briefly established between Trump and Biden. Will this be a one-and-done occurance, or could we finally be seeing a resurgance in political unity? With midterm elections on the horizon, we can only hope that other politicians will see the value in a greater sense of understanding.
Antonio Ferme is the Weekend News Curator for AllSides. He has a Center bias.
This piece was reviewed by Research Assistant and Data Journalist Andrew Weinzierl (Lean Left bias), Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias) and Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias).