Axios deleted a tweet scrutinizing a claim from Kamala Harris that the Biden administration was “starting from scratch” on COVID-19 vaccinations, and has yet to explain the decision despite promising in January to “take responsibility for all content that appears on our public platforms.”
The initial tweet, which highlighted an interview between Harris and Axios co-founder Mike Allen that aired Sunday on HBO, contrasted Harris’s claims with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s.
“There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations. We were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out,” Harris said. “And so in many ways, we’re starting from scratch on something that’s been raging for almost an entire year.”
Fauci said during a January White House press briefing that “we certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution.” Multiple current and former staffers with Operation Warp Speed confirmed Fauci’s account, telling National Review that the Trump administration coordinated with the CDC and local leaders to developed 64 regional rollout plans and gave the Biden transition team over 300 HHS meetings.
.@VP told @mikeallen that “there was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations” and that Biden admin was “starting from scratch.” That’s wrong. The Trump admin had a plan to distribute to locations chosen by states and let them take it from there. https://t.co/0MoQ8OnpoN pic.twitter.com/nYb8r5gPKz
— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) February 15, 2021
But the Axios tweet, published Sunday night with the January line from Fauci, was later deleted without explanation. The outlet left up a later tweet of the exchange, without the Fauci context, and also tweeted out a link to Allen’s story, which does not mention the Fauci statement, on Monday.
Why did Axios delete this tweet? pic.twitter.com/94HNrOIgrW
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) February 15, 2021
.@VP Harris: "There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations. … We're starting from scratch."@mikeallen: Are you having to adjust your sights now of what’s possible, given that?@VP: "We've gotta figure out a way. … No patience for, 'It can't be done.'" #AxiosOnHBO pic.twitter.com/opif5rjg96
— Axios (@axios) February 15, 2021
Axios did not return multiple requests for comment on why the tweet was deleted, and whether the White House reached out to complain about its framing. In January, the outlet published its “Bill of Rights,” which includes a promise to “take responsibility for all content that appears on our public platforms, putting the pressure on us to provide the highest level of scrutiny.”
In recent weeks, Axios has come under scrutiny after it was revealed that one of its reporters, Alexi McCammond — who previously covered the Biden campaign — was dating Biden press flack TJ Ducklo. Though Axios promised in January that perceived conflicts of interest “will be disclosed at the bottom of the story,” McCammond’s work covering the Biden transition did not receive any editor’s notes.
An Axios spokesperson initially told Politico that McCammond had been taken off the Biden beat, only to later clarify that McCammond had “taken a backseat” on Biden coverage. McCammond was reassigned to cover progressives in Congress and Vice President Harris after revealing her relationship to Axios leadership in November.
“TJ has not been a source for any story I’ve worked on or in any capacity since we began dating,” McCammond told People for a glowing profile of their relationship.
On Saturday, Ducklo resigned from his role as deputy White House press secretary after threatening and demeaning Politico reporter Tara Palmeri for covering his relationship as a potential conflict-of-interest.
“I will destroy you,” Ducklo reportedly told Palmeri, one day before President Biden told political appointees at a virtual swearing-in ceremony that “if you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. No ifs, ands or buts.”
After the story of the altercation broke, Ducklo was initially suspended for one week without pay — a decision White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she arrived at with chief of staff Ron Klain, but not Biden.