After a new variant of the COVID-19 virus recently began to spread in the U.S., the mainstream media did what the mainstream always does: Hype the hell out of it.
Breathless report after breathless report filled the airwaves and the headlines: Armageddon, they said, had arrived (really, this time, we mean it, they said).
For instance, The Washington Post ran a headline last week that said, “CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts covid-19 outbreak were vaccinated.” Oh no! The dreaded “breakthrough” infections!
NBC News followed with this headline, “Breakthrough COVID-19 cases: At least 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive.”
Coincidentally, the sudden sounding of the alarm came as word emerged that President Joe Biden had failed to reach his goal of vaccinated Americans, even weeks after his self-imposed July 4 deadline. The MSM, which has long pushed the narrative that every patriotic American should be jabbed with an experimental vaccine not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saw another avenue to renew their effort.
But the whole to-do this week blew up in President Joe Biden’s face. Even though he enjoys unprecedented friendly coverage by the lap-dog media, the president and some of his aides declared that the MSM had gone too far this time.
“Top Biden officials note that breakthrough infections among the vaccinated are exceedingly rare, unlikely to be severe, and more likely to occur in crowded indoor settings,” Politico reported. “They’ve been openly frustrated by what they see as overly alarmed coverage of these cases.”
“The situation was dire enough this past week that one longtime Democratic operative said Biden should consider issuing a formal address to the nation to more clearly lay out where the fight against the pandemic stands,” said the liberal indie-the-Beltway website.
In a rare airing of their dirty laundry, reports emerged that said the White House was miffed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had issued dire warnings about the Delta variant as it reversed its earlier stance and urged Americans to re-mask to stem the spread of the new strain.
“The White House is frustrated with what it views as alarmist, and in some instances flat-out misleading, news coverage about the Delta variant,” CNN reported on Monday in a piece by reporter Oliver Darcy.
“That’s according to two senior Biden administration officials I spoke with Friday, both of whom requested anonymity to candidly offer their opinion on coverage of the CDC data released that suggests vaccinated Americans who become infected with the Delta coronavirus variant can infect others as easily as those who are unvaccinated,” Darcy wrote.
The crux of the piece was to declare that the unvaccinated — not the new virus strain — is the real problem and even cites an unnamed source in the White House saying so.
“The media’s coverage doesn’t match the moment,” one of the Biden officials told Darcy. “It has been hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy. The biggest problem we have is unvaccinated people getting and spreading the virus.”
Darcy wrote that “poorly framed headlines and cable news chyrons wrongly suggested that vaccinated Americans are just as likely to spread the disease as unvaccinated Americans. But that isn’t quite the case.”
The Post piece even blasted the CDC for saying this last week that “the Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said,” according to a post in The New York Times.
The White House quickly responded, with Ben Wakana, a member of the White House’s rapid response team, yelling on Twitter: “VACCINATED PEOPLE DO NOT TRANSMIT THE VIRUS AT THE SAME RATE AS UNVACCINATED PEOPLE AND IF YOU FAIL TO INCLUDE THAT CONTEXT YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.”
The Politico piece went on to say that the administration’s mishandling of the message has led to back-biting in the White House.
“Inside the administration, the emergence of the Delta variant has caused friction, leading to behind-the-scenes finger-pointing and weeks-long tensions between the CDC and the White House. Two senior Biden officials familiar with the matter said the administration is still trying to balance messaging in a way that underscores the severity of the Delta variant while simultaneously reiterating that vaccinated individuals are overwhelmingly not at risk.”
“We thought we were going to move past this,” one senior administration official told the website. “It’s just like, here we go again.”
And like former President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplishment” moment, the White House is having second thoughts about declaring the pandemic all but over.
“We declared ourselves to be somewhat successful when we were able to say vaccinated people don’t have to mask,” one administration official said. “It’s hard to seem like we’re going back.”
Actually, we’ve already gone back. Next up: The return of lockdowns. Get ready.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.