Facebook Says Joe Biden 'Looking for Scapegoats' for Missing Vaccine Goals

A Facebook official said that the White House is looking for "scapegoats" after the Biden administration missed its COVID-19 vaccination goal in response to criticism from President Joe Biden.

Biden said Facebook was "killing people" on Friday after being asked a question about COVID misinformation on the popular social media site. White House efforts to tackle that misinformation have caused recent controversy.

A Facebook spokesperson issued a statement to NBC Senior Media Reporter Dylan Byers on Friday touting the company's efforts to encourage vaccinations. In a later statement, a Facebook official also appeared to take aim at the Biden administration.

According to Byers, Facebook said: "We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts.

"The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet.

"More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period," the statement said.

Byers reported that a Facebook official requested anonymity and passed along another statement on COVID, suggesting the White House was seeking to blame the company for its failure to meet vaccination goals.

"In private exchanges the Surgeon General [Vivek Murthy] has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19. They knew what they were doing.

FACEBOOK official: "In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19. They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.”

— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) July 16, 2021

"The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals," the official said.

The Biden administration had set a goal of getting 70 percent of the U.S. adult population at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4 but this ambitious target was missed. By July 4, 67 percent of U.S. adults had received at least one shot. That figure now stands at 68 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On Friday, NBC's Peter Alexander asked Biden: "On COVID misinformation, what's your message to platforms like Facebook?"

The president replied: "They're killing people. I mean, they really - look. The only pandemic we have is among [the] unvaccinated. And they're killing people."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing on Thursday that administration officials were flagging posts allegedly containing COVID disinformation to social media companies and specifically mentioned Facebook.

"We are in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team," Psaki said.

"We've increased disinformation research and tracking within the surgeon general's office," she went on.

"We're flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We're working with doctors and medical professionals to connect medical experts who are popular with our audiences with accurate information and boost trusted content—so we are helping get trusted content out there," Psaki said.

Surgeon General Murthy called COVID misinformation "an imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health."

Newsweek has asked Facebook and the White House for comment.

Jen Psaki Holds a Daily Briefing
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki listens during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House July 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Psaki said on Thursday that administration officials were flagging social media posts allegedly containing COVID-19 misinformation. Alex Wong/Getty Images