On Friday, desperate to deflect blame from his administration's failure to increase vaccination rates across the country, President Biden recklessly accused Facebook of “killing people” due to the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on various social media platforms. On Monday, MSNBC's Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski rushed to agree with the President's attempted scapegoating.
While Biden conducted a brief press gaggle with reporters outside White House Friday afternoon, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander asked what the President’s message was to platforms like Facebook. Biden responded with: “They’re killing people, I mean, they’re really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that's -- and they’re killing people.”
Facebook has since then released a statement, accusing Biden of finger pointing:
At a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in America, the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies. While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a whole of society approach to end this pandemic. And facts — not allegations — should help inform that effort. The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased. These and other facts tell a very different story to the one promoted by the administration in recent days.
After reading the Facebook statement Monday morning, Brzezinski immediately sided with Biden and claimed that Facebook was to blame for the country not meeting the administration's vaccination goal by the 4th of July. “You know what? Facebook is definitely a part of the reason the goal was not mixed,” said Brzezinski, who added: “And Facebook is a large reason why Trump's lies have festered across this country.”
She then brought on senior media reporter at NBC News, Dylan Byers, to discuss social media censorship and why it is important:
You can find people who go to Facebook to get their information. They think it’s news. That's the truth. And Donald Trump used Facebook and Twitter many times to promulgate his lies until he was banned from Twitter. How do we reconcile what Facebook's position is and what most, including the President of the United States, and those who study this, believe and that right now it's a platform that spreads disinformation?
After Brzezinski finished her ramble on why social media companies should censor speech they don’t like, Byers later added his comments on the situation: “I think what was disappointing here is that for a long time Facebook was actually commended for its response to the COVID pandemic and then to vaccine information in light of the fact it was able to draw much clearer lines around fact and fiction than it usually is.”
Later Monday morning, Biden again spoke with the press and actually tried to walk back his Facebook comments. According to Kaitlan Collins, CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent, Biden admitted:
Facebook isn’t killing people. These 12 people are out there giving misinformation, anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information. My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally...that they would do something.
It’s so great that the media is pro-censorship and is siding with the President that Facebook is “killing people.”
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Here is a transcript of the Monday morning show:
MSNBC's Morning Joe
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: And Facebook is taking on the White House after President Biden called out the coronavirus misinformation on the social media platform. The social media giant pushed back against the Biden administration's assertion that conspiracy theories found on the website are fueling resistance to the vaccine. President Biden making his views apparent in striking comments on Friday.
PETER ALEXANDER: What’s your message to platforms like Facebook?
JOE BIDEN: They’re killing people, I mean, they’re really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that's -- and they’re killing people.
BRZEZINSKI: In a blog post, Facebook slammed the administration's position, writing in part, “At a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in America, the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies.” The company goes on to say, “The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the U.S. have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. President Biden's goal was for 70% of the Americans to be vaccinated by July 4th. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”
You know what? Facebook is definitely a part of the reason the goal was not mixed [sic]. And Facebook is a large reason why Trump's lies have festered across this country. So that statement is rather interesting. Let's bring in senior media reporter at NBC News and MSNBC, Dylan Byers. What is Facebook doing with that response, Dylan? Because the lies fester on Facebook, you can find them every day. You can find people who go to Facebook to get their information. They think it’s news. That's the truth. And Donald Trump used Facebook and Twitter many times to promulgate his lies until he was banned from Twitter. How do we reconcile what Facebook's position is and what most, including the President of the United States, and those who study this, believe and that right now it's a platform that spreads disinformation?
DYLAN BYERS: Well, look, I think that, you know, on the one hand you're absolutely right. You can find almost anything on Facebook. I think what was disappointing here is that for a long time Facebook was actually commended for its response to the COVID pandemic and then to vaccine information in light of the fact it was able to draw much clearer lines around fact and fiction than it usually is. As Ed Young, your previous guest from The Atlantic said, this has become quite political. And what Facebook has run up against is, you know, there are claims that they can take down rather quickly. The assertion that, you know, vaccines are a way for the government to plant microchips in people, that they cause, you know -- that they change DNA, things like that. But they're running up against the thing that Facebook always runs up against, which is this issue of how do you balance your attempts to monitor fact versus fiction and not to infringe on speech and to allow people to say what they want, and to not open up a Pandora's box by which you start telling people what they can and can't say and that has ramifications for different issues down the line.
And so, when you ask what is Facebook doing with this response? They saw from the White House, first from the press secretary and then the Surgeon General and then from the President himself, a particularly aggressive effort to go after them, and in their view, to blame them for the administration's failure to hit that goal that it had for vaccines. And they had a decision, they could be what they thought was the scapegoat for that, or they could decide they weren't going to take it lying down and they were going to say, "No, look. Yes, yes, we are doing our best to combat misinformation on the platform, and yes, we'll always have work to do on that front but by the same token a lot of the reason that people were able to go out and get vaccinated and be convinced to get vaccinated and know where they should get vaccinated was because of us and because of other social media platforms where people were able to share this information."
And so, you know, I think what's sad here, Mika, is that you have -- with the Biden administration you had a chance to sort of hit the reset button between the White House and Silicon Valley and now they've sort of taken things to DEFCON level 1 in terms of going after one another. And that -- I'm not totally sure how productive that is for either side. I'm not sure it's productive for the White House and the Biden administration to be having a conversation about whether or not they're pointing fingers and passing the buck because they didn't make they’re vaccination goals. So I don't think they're are any winners here in terms of this debate.