Senator Ron Johnson accuses CDC of ‘censorship’ of own COVID vaccine information

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of coordinating with social media companies to suppress certain information about COVID-19 vaccines.

Citing one of his own social media posts about vaccines that were labeled misleading, Johnson claimed the agency had abused his authority and demanded he hand over key documents about the efforts in a Monday letter to the CDC director. Dr. Mandy Cohen.

“Based on recent information I have received… it is clear that the CDC abused its authority by engaging in a censorship campaign to suppress and discredit certain views that it labeled ‘misinformation,'” Johnson wrote in the letter, Obtained by The Post.

As an example, Johnson highlighted a January 3, 2022 post he made on Twitter, now known as X, that highlighted information from the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Ron Johnson has been criticizing various health agencies for their response to the pandemic. REUTERS
ron johnson letterThe Wisconsin senator admonished the CDC’s push to moderate social media content about COVID-19 vaccines. Senator Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson TweetThe post that caused Senator Ron Johnson to be slapped with a misleading label on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.Senator Ron Johnson

In the post, Johnson claimed that VAERS data showed there had been more than 1 million adverse events from the COVID-19 shot. That post was labeled as misleading on the platform with a note explaining that most public health officials had deemed the vaccines safe.

According to Johnson, any replies, shares or likes that came from that post were blocked by the platform. X has since switched to a “Community Notes” system that collectively makes corrections to potentially misleading posts.

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The platform’s new leadership later explained to Johnson that executive branch officials, particularly from the CDC, “reached out to social media companies, including Twitter, about ‘COVID vaccine misinformation,’” the senator wrote.

Mandy CohenMandy Cohen took the reins as CDC director last month. TNS

“The information provided by Twitter showed a clear and concerted effort by the CDC to censor those who tweeted about the VAERS data,” Johnson added.

Johnson, ranking member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, demands records detailing interactions between all CDC employees and employees of X, Facebook and YouTube regarding 10 people who expressed skeptical views about the vaccines and the lockdown from December 1, 2019.

Those 10 include Johnson himself, Brianne Dressen, John Ioannidis, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Pierre Kory, Theresa Long, Robert Malone, Peter McCullough, Harvey Risch and Aaron Siri.

The Wisconsin senator also requests all records related to the CDC’s interactions with private sector companies and federal agencies regarding suppression of online speech or COVID-19 misinformation policies.

It is also seeking records on “Be Aware” topics and a list of all social media posts that the CDC flagged as “containing misinformation, disinformation, or generally unfavorable speech.”

Johnson gave the CDC a deadline of September 11 to comply. The agency did not respond to the Post’s request for comment, but has noted in the past that VAERS relies on reports submitted by individuals rather than health officials.

“VAERS is not designed to determine whether a vaccine caused a health problem, but is especially useful for detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that could indicate a potential safety problem with a vaccine,” reads a notice to the social network included in Johnson’s. letter.

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ron johnson letterThe senator highlighted a CDC advisory to the platform about misinformation and what to watch out for on social media. Senator Ron Johnson

In the letter, Johnson also presented a timeline outlining the sequence of events leading up to his tweet about VAERS.

“It appears that the CDC’s efforts to coordinate with Twitter to discredit the VAERS posts followed shortly after my own public statements about the VAERS data and the mainstream media’s condemnation of my comments,” he wrote.

Content moderation policies on social media platforms have long been a rallying cry for conservatives who complain they have been unfairly censored.

In the House, Republicans led by Government Weapons Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have been investigating social media policies.

Ron JohnsonRon Johnson won re-election in the battleground state of Wisconsin in the 2022 midterm elections.AP

Johnson has also been analyzing other actions by government health agencies around the pandemic.

Earlier this month, he asked the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services whether government scientists were hiding critical information about COVID-19 from the public.

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