Washington Post Fact Checker Defends Biden Lie on Vaccines: ‘It Was a Verbal Stumble’

President Joe Biden stands on stage during a break in a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler defended President Joe Biden after he falsely claimed that vaccines were unavailable before he took office, dismissing it as “a verbal stumble, a typical Biden gaffe” while instructing critics to “cool the outrage meter” on the president’s outright falsehood.

Biden made the false claim during Tuesday evening’s town hall with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“There’s just not all of a sudden 600 million doses are going to appear,” Biden said regarding coronavirus vaccines. “What’s going to happen is it’s going to continue to increase as we move along, and we’ll have reached 400 million by the end of May and 600 million by the end of July.”

“The biggest thing, though, as you remember, when you and I— I shouldn’t say it that way as you remember— when you and I talked last we talked about, it’s one thing to have the vaccine, which we didn’t have when we came into office, but a vaccinator,” he continued, triggering an outcry from conservatives, including former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

“Biden says there was no vaccine when he came into office. That is abjectly FALSE. President Trump brought about the fastest vaccine for a novel pathogen in history. How does Joe get away with this?” McEnany asked on social media.

Her question prompted a dismissive response from Kessler. “It was a verbal stumble, a typical Biden gaffe, as he had already mentioned 50 million doses being available when he took office,” he said. “Ex Trump officials should especially cool the outrage meter, as it just looks silly.”

Kessler’s dismissal prompted further responses as others questioned his decision to dismiss Biden’s claim.

“That interpretation is not remotely accurate. ‘It’s one thing to have the vaccine – which we didn’t have when we came into office,'” Mark Bednar, spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), said as others joined in:

Kayleigh McEnany responded to Kessler:

Giving Kessler the opportunity to defend himself, one user asked, “honest question: how do you determine what’s a verbal stumble and what’s not?”

“It depends in part on whether he spoke correctly about vaccine availability elsewhere in the interview. People screw up on live television,” Kessler said, seeming to attribute Biden’s routine flubs to his stutter:

Biden received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine during Trump’s presidency and even credited the administration “for getting this off the ground with Operation Warp Speed.”

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