CNN has been fending off a wave of vehement criticism from mainstream media for a report that suggested the Joe Biden administration was having to "build from scratch" a vaccine distribution programme as there was no such plan elaborated by the administration of Donald Trump.
A CNN story published on 21 January had claimed, citing sources, that newly sworn-in President Joe Biden and his team were facing a tremendous challenge as they attempt to follow up on their pledges to turn the COVID-19 pandemic around and speed up vaccinating Americans.
The new POTUS had inherited a non-existent vaccine distribution strategy from Donald Trump, insisted the report, weeks after a spate of vaccines had been approved for use in the US.
"There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch," a source was cited as saying by CNN.
Attempt to ‘Lower the Bar’
Mainstream media was quick to rip into the CNN report as making false assertions, with Politico editor Sam Stein tweeting to remind readers that a vaccine distribution plan, albeit with perceived shortcomings, had been an inherent part of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed.
Biden folks are spinning here or trying to lower the bar strategically. There was, indeed, a plan from Trump. I listened in on govs calls on vaccine distribution. The plan had obvious shortcomings. but to say there’s nothing to rework is not true. https://t.co/RADv5dl8mf— Sam Stein (@samstein) January 21, 2021
The public–private partnership, initiated by the US government, was tasked with accelerating the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
It was initially funded with about $10 billion from the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) passed by the United States Congress on 27 March 2020.
lol. this is not a radical thing i put down here, people. The Trump teams definitely had a vaccine distribution plan. it may have come unpainfully short. but, like, it did exist! here’s a small overview of ithttps://t.co/LiesMoXCVo https://t.co/lgEcMHuweW— Sam Stein (@samstein) January 21, 2021
The Washington Post similarly denounced the report by CNN as a ‘gambit’ seemingly motivated by a desire to ‘lower the expectations’ from the new administration regarding efforts to propel the nation’s vaccination plan.
Joe Biden has touted a plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of his administration, which would be one million per day.
1) Biden advisers keep making this claim to reporters, but the idea they’re starting “from scratch” seems like a gambit to lower expectations.— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 21, 2021
Trump was dangerous on covid. Many problems to fix. But government officials did set up a system that’s distributed 36M doses to states. https://t.co/24ycjjJnM3
Since the vaccines became publicly available in the US in mid-December, 37,960,000 doses have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID data tracker.
2) In the past week, @business says 912,497 vaccine doses were administered per day — or 91% of Biden’s goal of 1M Americans per day.— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 21, 2021
Either the situation on the ground is better than team Biden acknowledges, or Biden’s target is less ambitious than it seems. pic.twitter.com/z7TDdHC4i1
Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond tweeted that perhaps Biden's target is ‘less ambitious than it seems’.
Other critics called the story an example of CNN framing a favourable narrative for the new White House. The Dispatch suggested the fact that CNN built the entire report on anonymous sources was suspicious.
This is a very weird story to base entirely on anonymous sources. Of course Team Biden is going to favor a narrative that Team Trump did none of the vaccine distribution legwork! https://t.co/zqwPixN4wl— Andrew Egger (@EggerDC) January 21, 2021
Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer agreed that ‘granting anonymity’ to the sources was the wrong call if the outlet sought to boost credibility.
Why is CNN granting anonymity to whoever gave them these quotes? The Trump Admin is gone. No one will lose their job. The info is not classified. If the media wants more credibility, make these sources go on the record. pic.twitter.com/SCX7toXRJo— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 21, 2021
The Washington Examiner took issue with CNN allowing itself to be used as a ‘PR shop’ for the Biden team.
this is a lie.— tsar becket adams (@BecketAdams) January 21, 2021
CNN is allowing itself to be used as a PR shop to spin events in Biden's favor. if the admin meets its goal of 100M vaccines in 100 days, which we are on course to do anyway, they take credit. if they don't meet that goal, they can claim they never had a chance. https://t.co/5NvkR6O80x
Other media outlets quoted available US vaccination data to show that it hasn't actually been particularly bad compared to other nations.
The U.S. vaccination rollout hasn't actually been particularly bad compared to other nations. Biden has taken pains to lowball expectations, though.— Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) January 21, 2021
More on the vaccination data here:https://t.co/h73xhfwHAm pic.twitter.com/jyVIQuVnmY
A columnist for the New York Post suggested people do the math and realise that close to 1 million shots daily were being administered in the country, while Joe Biden had unveiled a plan to do 100 million shots in 100 days. ‘It's literally the same plan’, tweeted Karol Markowicz.
We are doing close to 1 million shots a day and the Joe Biden plan is to do 100 million shots in 100 days. It's literally the same plan. https://t.co/SzngOeg5A2— Karol Markowicz (@karol) January 21, 2021
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday during a White House press briefing similarly threw into question the notion that the Biden administration was ‘starting from scratch’.
"We certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution," said Fauci.