Some Of Trump’s Biggest Supporters Are Ditching Him Over These Vaccine Comments

“I can’t look past it... Hate me if you want. I can’t look past this.”
trump-vaccine-support
Former President Donald Trump answers questions from reporters during an election night party at Mar-a-Lago, Tuesday, November 8, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Phelan M. Ebenhack for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has angered large parts of his base by taking credit for the COVID-19 vaccine roll out and dismissing their concerns about the vaccine’s safety.

Trump called in to the alternative right-wing network Real America’s Voice this week, and host David Brody raised the issue of the COVID vaccine being unsafe, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which warned last week that a safety monitoring system had flagged that the shot could be linked to a type of brain stroke in older adults. Regulators in the EU and Israel have since said there is no evidence to prove this link.

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Brody then asked Trump if he would effectively back up conspiracies claiming the vaccines are not as safe as regulators first claimed.

But rather than leaning into the claims that vaccines are unsafe—as he has done for decades—Trump instead touted the number of lives saved by the fast roll out of the vaccine.

“You have many reports that say the vaccines saved tens of millions of lives and without the vaccines you would have had a thing like we had in 1917,” Trump said, likely referring to the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Trump also took credit for getting the FDA to fast track the approval process from “maybe 5 or 12 years” to just nine months. He also baselessly claimed that “some say that I saved 100 million lives worldwide,” even though there is no evidence to suggest anyone ever made such a claim.

Trump’s comments quickly riled up the anti-vax community, which has a large overlap with his own base.

Among those to blast Trump for his latest comments supporting the COVID vaccine was Ed Dowd, an author who has spread disinformation related to the pandemic, including a book that baselessly linked sudden deaths to the COVID vaccine.

“Unfortunately, Trump is still hanging his hat on this vaccine,” Dowd told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in an interview Thursday, adding: “That guy needs to get off this asap or he’s done.”

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Jones replied: “He’s almost autistic when it comes to admitting he’s wrong.” 

One of the loudest voices speaking out against Trump this week was Tracy Beanz, a right-wing talking head and one of the earliest promoters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who said the former president’s defense of the vaccine is unacceptable and that he should be aware of the conspiracy theories about it being linked to death.

“This is a very serious issue for me,” Beanz tweeted on Thursday alongside a video of Trump’s comments. “I can’t look past it. By now there is no reason he shouldn’t know what is happening. Hate me if you want. I can’t look past this.”

The vast majority of the almost 2,700 responses to Beanz’s post agreed with her claim that Trump’s defense of the vaccine roll out meant they could no longer support him.

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Stew Peters, a popular right-wing podcast host and conspiracy theorist who has produced several unhinged anti-vax films, also weighed in: “Millions have been maimed and murdered,” he falsely tweeted. “This is 100% disqualifying in my book.”

This is not the first time Trump has riled up his base by expressing support for vaccines. But as his 2024 campaign kicks into gear, his desire to tout what he perceives as his achievements during his term in office will run head first into the conspiracy theories that many of his followers believe.

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On Telegram, where some of his most extreme supporters spend their time online, there was a similar reaction.

“Trump’s just as culpable and every time he continues to push it, more and more want him sitting next to Fauci and Gates at NUREMBERG 2.0,” one member of a popular QAnon channel wrote.

Another user said people need to take action and demand Trump issue a new statement denouncing the vaccines.

“Everybody in this movement needs to demand Trump denounce the vaccines,” one Telegram user wrote. “Everybody should be hounding him on all social media. If there’s a rally there needs to be chants. See him walking into his building in New York and yell at him to denounce the vaccines.”

But of course, because this is Trump, there are always supporters willing to suspend disbelief and create an alternative universe where he is still their hero. 

In QAnon channels, Trump supporters worked hard to outdo each other with increasingly implausible explanations for why the former president was defending the vaccine, from suggesting that Trump was playing a complex long game to claims he approved the vaccine to protect the world from a deep state bioweapon.

“Trump used Project Warpspeed to prevent the dark winter that would ultimately bring us into the great reset,” one follower wrote, adding: “Quick vaccine = The Greater good,” Another claimed that “the vaccines under Trump were different than the vaccines under Biden.”

Other claims Trump’s dismissal of safety concerns about the vaccine was just a ploy to catch those who are not truly loyal to him.

“Everyone’s turned on him after yesterday,” one Telegram poster wrote. “Trump is master at this, weeding out the rats… just watch.”

Others went deeper down the conspiracy rabbithole. “It was a DARPA bioweapon made in 2012...it was the military not Trump who made it. He had it released early so they couldn’t keep us locked down until 2030 while they killed us with other viruses.”

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