Fact Check: Does Project Veritas Video Show Pfizer Is Mutating COVID?

A hugely viral video that purportedly shows a senior Pfizer employee talking about COVID-19 vaccine experiments has exploded across social media, gathering millions of views and sparking speculation.

Released by Project Veritas, the video includes what it says is undercover footage of a conversation detailing COVID mutation projects, designed to pre-emptively research potential new strains of the virus before they may find root naturally.

In wake of this, many social media users have started to claim that the video proves that Pfizer is conducting these experiments actively.

Pfizer covid vaccine logo
A Project Veritas video with what alleges is a Pfizer employee, includes a conversation about the possibility of mutating COVID, in order to preemptively create vaccines for strains that may occur naturally. Pictured here, nurse practitioner Sarah Rauner fills a syringe with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to children from 5-11 years old at the Beaumont Health offices in Southfield, Michigan on November 5, 2021. Inset, the Pfizer logo on a building in Madrid. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty; David Benito/Getty

The Claim

Multiple claims on social media, posted on January 26, 2023, suggest that Pfizer is currently mutating COVID variants in order to produce vaccines for future sale.

The claims are based on a Project Veritas video, also posted on January 26, 2023, which on Twitter alone has been viewed more than 8.6 million times.

Among them was a tweet, with more than 61,000 engagements, from Project Veritas CEO and founder James O'Keefe, who wrote: "Pfizer director on camera saying they are 'mutating' COVID-19 Virus to increase infectiousness. UNREAL!"

The Facts

It's worth noting that Project Veritas, which describes itself as a "journalism enterprise", is a controversial organization that has previously produced investigations subsequently labeled as false or unevidenced by fact-checkers and other media.

Among other stories, in 2017, The Washington Post reported that O'Keefe had tried to dupe the paper into publishing a false story about former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore.

In 2020, Project Veritas claimed that Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was linked to a "cash for ballots voter fraud scheme." An investigation by USA Today found no evidence of such a scheme.

In 2021, it also claimed that during the New Jersey gubernatorial election an election worker illegally allowed someone who said they weren't a U.S. citizen to fill out a ballot, which PolitiFact reported was false.

Whatever the facts are about its latest video, some of the claims that it has inspired misrepresent the content of the video itself.

The video shows a conversation between an unidentified reporter and an interviewee that Project Veritas identifies as "Jordon Trishton Walker, Pfizer Director of Research and Development - Strategic Operations and mRNA Scientific Planning".

The film is divided into a series of clips with what appears to be the same interviewee each time.

In the first set of clips, the reporter asks: "What is Pfizer doing, I guess to optimize, you know, the vaccines now?"

The interviewee replies: "Oh, we actually had a meeting about that today. So, there's a lot."

The video then cuts to an interstitial scene with O'Keefe before the interviewee continues.

"We're exploring, like, you know how the virus keeps mutating? Well, one of the things we're exploring is like, why don't we just mutate it ourselves, so we could focus on, create, preemptively develop new vaccines, right?" the interviewee said.

A subtitle in the video claims the interviewee says "So, we have to do that." However, the interviewee covers their mouth at this point and it's not clear whether that's what they said.

They continue: "If we're going to do that though there's a risk of like, as you could imagine, no one wants to be having a pharma company mutating ******* viruses.

"So, we're like, 'Do we want to do this?' So that's like one of the things we're considering, for like, the future, like maybe we can like, create new versions of the vaccines and things like that."

The interviewer asks: "Okay. So, Pfizer ultimately is thinking about mutating COVID?"

The interviewee replies: "Well that is not what we say to the public, no. That's why it was, it was a thought that came up in a meeting and we were like: 'Why do we not?'

"It was like, we're going to consider that with more discussions. That exactly, actually. We're like: 'Wait a minute, like, people won't like that.'"

O'Keefe appears again, clarifying the theoretical nature of the conversation, saying: "That's right, it appears that Pfizer is internally discussing the possibility of mutating the COVID virus themselves, in order to tailor a vaccine to sell to the public."

Details are then discussed, during the hidden camera footage, about how such experiments could be conducted with monkeys.

O'Keefe then introduces another clip, before which he claims the interviewee later "describes those experiments as if they are ongoing and not simply a hypothetical discussion."

In this next clip, which appears to be in a different location, the Project Veritas reporter asks: "So, I mean, when Is Pfizer going to implement the mutation of all these viruses?"

The interviewee responds: "I don't know, it depends on how the experiments work out because this is just like, something we're trying, right?"

Immediately, an edit to another clip is added, in which the interviewee says: "It sounds like gain-of-function to me."

Gain-of-function research is a term described by the scientific journal Nature as: "At its most innocuous...mutations that give a gene, RNA or protein new abilities or expression patterns."

It, as Nature points out, has been a hot-button topic whose terminology is not consistently understood.

The interviewee replies: "I don't know, it's a little bit different. I think it's different. It's like this, it's definitely not gain-of-function."

Throughout this section, there are a series of quick edits, which means it's not entirely clear if the conversation is about gain-of-function in relation to COVID research (although, by appearances, that seems to be the intention).

Another cut occurs, to the interviewee: "We're not supposed to do gain-of-function with the viruses. They'd rather we not but we do these selected structure mutations to try to see if we can make them more potent.

"So, there is research ongoing about that. I don't know how that's going to work. There better not be more outbreaks because, Jesus Christ."

Here, it's possible that the "viruses" they are talking about are COVID (particularly as "outbreaks" are mentioned) but it's not certain, particularly with the editing.

The video cuts again to the reporter asking: "So, tell me more, what's developing with the whole, you know, virus mutation process?"

The interviewee says: "Well, they're still kinds of conducting the experiments on it but it seems like from what I've heard, they're kind of optimizing it, but they're going slow cause everyone's very cautious, like, you know, obviously they don't want to accelerate it too much.

"But I think they're also just trying to do it as an exploratory thing because you obviously don't want to advertise that you are figuring out future mutations."

At least in part recognized by Project Veritas, the tone of the conversation is around discussion and not on projects that are ongoing.

Even when O'Keefe claims that the second set of clips shows the interviewee talking about experiments beyond theoretical discussion, it's not clear what type of experiments the interviewee was referring to.

He may have been referring to experiments on monkeys or it may be other research on small animal subjects (such as flies) or preliminary research or simulated mutations which don't involve live specimens.

In any case, the video clip does not provide the information for us to be certain.

Another issue is that we do not have the full raw footage to assess whether the subject of the conversation changed or the terms it was couched in.

Newsweek has asked Project Veritas for this footage and a full transcript of the conversation and contacted Pfizer about the interviewee and details of any of the experiments described or inferred.

Whatever the authenticity of the video or the factuality of its content, some of the comments shared online in response to it are misleading characterizations of what it shows.

It does not clearly state that "mutation" experiments are occurring with live subjects at Pfizer and much of the interviewee's answers are in hypothetical terms.

As the film was posted recently there may yet be more information forthcoming. Until then, however, the speculative claims that Newsweek has identified on social media are not a fair reflection of what the video shows.

Pfizer has been the subject of many misleading claims since the global outbreak of COVID-19 and the company's subsequent development of a vaccine for the disease.

Last year, Newsweek found social media posts falsely suggested that the U.K. government had changed its advice for pregnant women using the vaccine developed by the company. Its vaccine was also falsely linked to claims that it caused hepatitis in children.

The Ruling



In the Project Veritas video, the interviewee, who is quoted as a Pfizer employee, says there are ongoing discussions about engineering "mutations" of COVID so that preemptive vaccines, for variants that may occur in nature, could be developed.

However, the discussions are spoken about in theoretical terms.

While Project Veritas' James O'Keefe claims that the interviewee moves on to talk about these experiments as if they are ongoing, there is not enough information in the film to be certain whether he is talking about theoretical experiments or other preliminary research, or if these directly involve or are related to COVID.

At the time of writing, Pfizer is yet to comment on the Project Veritas video or the claims made within it.

Therefore, we currently rate the claims that Pfizer is mutating COVID as unverified.


Unverified: The claim could be true or false, but there is at the time of publication insufficient publicly-available evidence to prove so either way. The claim should be treated with caution and skepticism until more evidence becomes available to make a conclusive determination.
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