“Clarence Thomas suggests COVID vaccines are made with ‘aborted children’,” Axios falsely reported. Several other media outlets filed similar dishonest reports, including NBC News and Politico.
There are few things the mainstream media loves doing more than trying to make the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court look out of touch, ignorant, and/or factually challenged on legal matters. That is exactly what happened last week in the aftermath of a decision from the SCOTUS on a vaccine mandate/religious freedom case out of New York.
On Thursday, our nation’s highest court rejected a legal challenge from New York health care professionals who sued Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) over the state’s health care worker vaccine mandate put in place in August 2021 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) before he resigned in disgrace.
Justice Clarence Thomas was one of three on the court (Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito were the others) who argued that they should have heard the case. In Thomas’ dissent (see here, pages 47 and 48), he cited claims from the plaintiffs about how the vaccines were developed:
“Petitioners are 16 healthcare workers who served New York communities throughout the COVID–19 pandemic. They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.”
Seems pretty straightforward, but that’s not how media outlets like Axios, Politico, and NBC News initially reported Thomas’ remarks. For instance, in the below tweet, you’ll notice Axios falsely claimed it was Thomas’ opinion:
Clarence Thomas suggests COVID vaccines are made with "aborted children" https://t.co/hHHG33qtQb
— Axios (@axios) June 30, 2022
Not only that, but in their original report (which has since been corrected – sort of), they also made several false and irrelevant claims, as noted by author Dale Franks among others:
This brief–yet enormously dishonest–article falsely asserts that Clarence Thomas made a claim that was actually made by the plaintiffs, spuriously constructs a different claim that was never made, declares it false, then confirms the actual claim made. pic.twitter.com/H1nymRemsW
— Dale Franks ⚛️ (@DaleFranks) June 30, 2022
Wherein Oriana Gonzalez (and her editor, assuming she has an editor, right @axios?) apparently can't grasp that Clarence Thomas was restating the petitioners arguments, not stating his own opinion. Omitting the first sentence drastically changes the meaning. https://t.co/UW5D10Agp6 pic.twitter.com/1CVFRojKe7
— Magnus (@JacksonTDawes) June 30, 2022
NBC News got in on the act as well:
— Adam Edelman (@abedelman) June 30, 2022
They were called out on it by Ed Whelan, but as of this writing, both the tweet and the original story are still up:
Quite a weird article by @abedelman @ariabendix. Claims at top that Justice Thomas said covid vaccines "are made with *cells from* 'aborted children.'" But he said they were "developed using *cell lines derived* from aborted children." Not same–and authors agree with latter! 1/ pic.twitter.com/l7muEGBRqe
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) June 30, 2022
Broader point (which I should have worked into first tweet) is that Thomas was summarizing argument of petitioners.
But, hey, any excuse for taking a whack at Thomas, as it will get lots of play from yahoos. 3/
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) June 30, 2022
— Sister Toldjah 🌻 (@sistertoldjah) July 4, 2022
This was their “correction”:
For the record: This corrects an earlier deleted tweet that misattributed the claim that Covid vaccines were “developed using cell lines derived from aborted children” to Thomas. The story and this post were updated to directly state that he was referencing petitioners’ claims.
— POLITICO (@politico) July 1, 2022
Keep in mind, too, that even if this was Thomas’ opinion, it has a solid basis:
“In various stages of vaccine development and manufacturing, some of the COVID-19 vaccines used cells originally isolated from fetal tissue (often referred to as fetal cells), some of which were originally derived from an aborted fetus.”
In other words, the big “Clarence Thomas said something and we should all be concerned!” story was not a story at all, whether the opinion was one he cited or his own. Politico, NBC News, and Axios all should have deleted their reports out of embarrassment, but I guess that’s just too much to ask.
Multiple Twitter users traced the genesis for this media hoax back to two left-wing writers – Vox’s Ian Millhiser and Mark Joseph Stern from Slate – both of who are notorious for getting it wrong:
To my liberal friends or followers: I am *begging* you not to take your lead on SCOTUS matters from Ian Millhiser or Mark Joseph Stern. Each of these men spew constant combinations of ignorance & bad faith. The mix varies but the result will almost always leave you less informed. https://t.co/TgD1lhufdC
— jeremysenderowicz (@senderowiczj) July 1, 2022
Yes 90% of the false media claims about SCOTUS come from 2 specific left-wing activists: MJS and Millhiser. Reporters follow them, then adopt their distortions in articles without checking. But that’s a choice. https://t.co/2HIfjGgNWu
— AG (@AGHamilton29) June 30, 2022
A better move would be to retract the false story completely, and to put one in its place that warns other journalists against listening to Mark Joseph Stern and Ian Millhiser. https://t.co/vebFqHRFNA
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) July 1, 2022
Aiding and abetting these “news” organizations were Washington Post “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler, who – shockingly enough – did not even bother to do his job on this one:
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) July 1, 2022
… and a couple of “disinformation experts,” including Nina Jankowicz:
Jankowicz’s retweet has now disappeared because the original tweeter — also a purported disinformation expert — has now deleted her own tweet falsely claiming Clarence Thomas had been spreading misinformation. pic.twitter.com/xuOkuXBh9k
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) July 2, 2022
Just incredible. It’s as if all of these people who were spreading the fake news conspired together to (once again) prove conservatives right about them. They really do make it too easy sometimes.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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