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Tipsheet

Mediaite Actually Claimed Stephen Miller Said Trump Administration Would Have Had Vaccine for Omicron By Now

It's only been one week since the omicron variant was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a "variant of concern." That same night, on Friday, November 26, Stephen Miller and Dr. Nicole Saphier spoke with Tammy Bruce, who was filling in as a host on Fox News' "Hannity." During the conversation, which discussed omicron as well as other variants, Miller speculated that "if President Trump was still in office, by the way, we would already have modified vaccines that deal with the new variants," leading Mediaite's Sarah Rumpf to at one point claim that Miller was talking about the omicron variant.

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At one point, Rumpf's headline read "WATCH: Stephen Miller Absurdly Claims If Trump Were Still President ‘We Would Already Have Modified Vaccines’ For New Omicron Variant." 

As Rumpf began her article:

In a Friday appearance on Hannity, former White House senior adviser Stephen Miller absurdly claimed that if former President Donald Trump were still president, “we would already have modified vaccines” to deal with the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Yes, to be clear, Miller is talking about the Omicron (B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 variant that was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa on Wednesday, and designated as a “variant of concern” (VOC) by WHO earlier on Friday, mere hours before he decided to make this absolutely ridiculous claim on a nationally televised program. “The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021,” wrote WHO in their statement.

...

Miller’s suggestion that Trump could have somehow done something, anything that could have led to a vaccine targeted to a newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 variant within hours of its designation as a VOC and only 17 days after its discovery is, of course, absolutely bonkers and lacking any logical foundation in reality.

Rumpf did go on to accurately quote Bruce. "Guest host Tammy Bruce said that the current vaccine boosters were “for the alpha version,” and “weren’t adjusted,” like flu shots were for the annual strains of the influenza virus," she wrote. 

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And, while Rumpf did include a clip of Miller's comments, Miller is quoted as speaking about the "new variant," with Rumpf emphasizing to readers that Miller was apparently speaking about omicron. In actuality, he said "new variants," which leads to a larger discussion that Miller was more conceivably getting at, which is to say he was suggesting that if Trump was still in office, his administration would have had been able to keep up with variants, such as Delta, as they've down with the flu.

The relevant transcript from last Friday night is as follows:

Bruce: This is a difficult thing, Stephen. We have these vaccines, we know that as Delta is now the main -- if not the singular cause here of the variant of the United States. These boosters are the same vaccines for the alpha version. They weren't adjusted. We get our flu shots adjusted to the various strains, that we wonder which flu is going to hit us. So it seems like we're rushing when we don't even know what this new variant is going to do. But really, a lot of this we can't deny, has been so political. Do you see politics in this? Is this another dynamic about fear? 

Miller: I see politics everywhere.

Bruce: I bet.

Miler: You asked a few brilliant questions there. You made some really great points. Let me start with, covid is becoming endemic, it's going to continue to mutate, it's going to continue to evolve. It's all around planet Earth. If president trump was still in office, by the way, we'd already have modified vaccines that deal with the new variants, which is a great point. President trump bought us vaccines and record times, which he made voluntary, not mandatory, and he'd have updates too.

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It's worth emphasizing that at no point did Miller himself specifically address the omicron variant by name. Bruce and Dr. Saphier had been talking about the new variant, which, at that point, had only been known to the world for a few hours at that point. 

Ultimately, to their credit, Mediaite updated the headline and the article with an editor's note, though several days after the article went up, and after multiple requests from Miller's spokespeople. 

Rumpf's headline now reads "WATCH: Stephen Miller Claims If Trump Were Still President ‘We Would Already Have Modified Vaccines,’" with the first two paragraphs being worded differently as well. There's no longer a passage that "Yes, to be clear, Miller is talking about the Omicron (B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 variant that was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa on Wednesday, and designated as a “variant of concern” (VOC) by WHO earlier on Friday, mere hours before he decided to make this absolutely ridiculous claim on a nationally televised program."

Another paragraph is also reworded so that it now reads:

If Miller was referring to the Omicron variant — and it is unclear from his comments — then his suggestion that Trump could have somehow done something, anything that could have led to a vaccine targeted to a newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 variant within hours of its designation as a VOC and only 17 days after its discovery is, of course, absolutely bonkers and lacking any logical foundation in reality.

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If it seems too absurd to be true, that may very well likely be because it is, and pieces like this become the definition of a hit piece. 

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