In Pandemic, CDC Media Team Prioritized Liberal Media, Dismissed Conservative Sources

Records show the CDC was much more willing to answer questions from and work with liberal media outlets and journalists.

June 21, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) released a trove of new public records in its ongoing investigation into how the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may have inappropriately allowed its policy agenda to supersede public health concerns. Records obtained from FGI’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that the CDC’s media team responded to media outlets and journalists regarding COVID vaccines differently according to their political leanings.

In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine. Soon after, the FDA issued further EUAs for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines, as well, before issuing official approvals for the vaccines. However, the typical timeline for vaccine research and development is five to ten years or even longer, due to the necessary pre-clinical and safety trials and the regulatory approval process. The speed of the COVID vaccine development and approval left many Americans hesitant and suspicious, and spurring FGI’s current investigation.

Records obtained from a FOIA request to the CDC indicate disparate treatment to different media outlets and journalists depending on political leanings. For example, when the Washington Times asked questions regarding the efficacy and risks associated with the COVID vaccines, the CDC simply gave a response based on information already available on their website. Similar responses were also given to inquiries from other conservative media outlets and independent journalists – links to already published PowerPoint slides or rote COVID safety guidance. In some cases, the CDC took weeks, if not months, to produce those. In light of the problems that arose with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that caused the government to pause its distribution and now to rescind its authorization, skepticism and hard questions were in order.

However, when left-leaning media outlets and journalists would reach out with inquiries and request interviews, the CDC typically responded the same day, and the responses were drastically different. For example, when Buzzfeed reached out for an interview, the CDC replied that two CDC experts were available that very day. Buzzfeed even sent some questions in advance that seem to have tied in with the narrative the CDC was promoting. In another case, Commonweal, a liberal American journal of opinion, reached out with an inquiry, and the CDC responded with a written statement promoting the narrative it proposed Commonweal should use. When left-leaning Axios reached out with questions on how COVID vaccines affected pregnancies, the CDC’s detailed responses were published on Axios’ website the next day. Overall, CDC appears to have prioritized responding to media outlets that would largely parrot and advance their COVID vaccine agenda while ignoring or dismissing those presenting critical views or asking questions.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“It’s clear the CDC regarded conservative outlets with tough questions to be adversarial, while treating left-leaning media like a private PR shop. When the FDA issued emergency authorizations for the COVID vaccines, many Americans were rightfully skeptical. But when reputable media outlets and journalists raised questions, the CDC rarely responded in a timely manner and, when they did, provided cookie-cutter answers parroting already-available information – and in the case of the J&J vaccine, those questions needed to be asked. Alternatively, when liberal media outlets and journalists asked questions, the CDC responded promptly and thoughtfully and in ways designed to further its own vaccine agenda. The CDC is a taxpayer-funded government agency, not an advocacy organization or political operation. The American people should have confidence that its public health institutions are prioritizing science and objectively responding to concerns, not simply pushing an administration’s policy agenda.”