FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—When President Joe Biden’s White House reached out to Amazon, demanding the bookseller suppress books opposing vaccines amid Biden’s push for the COVID-19 vaccines, White House staff highlighted one book in particular, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Signal.
The House Judiciary Committee obtained emails demonstrating the White House’s pressure on Amazon to suppress “anti-vax books” and the company’s decision to take action against the books. The pressure campaign left Amazon employees wondering whether the Biden administration was “asking us to remove books.”
“Who can we talk to about the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation [on] Amazon?” Andrew Slavitt, then a senior adviser on Biden’s COVID-19 response team, asked an Amazon executive on March 2, 2021.
The executive replied that Amazon had “taken a number of actions to not show misleading content on vaccinations, so if we’re missing something, please let us know.”
Slavitt sent an attachment, noting that “if you search for ‘vaccines’ under books, I see what comes up.”
“I haven’t looked beyond that but if that’s what’s on the surface, it’s concerning,” the member of the White House’s COVID-19 response team added.
The Amazon executive responded by noting that the company doesn’t “allow content meant to mislead customers or that doesn’t accurately represent the content of the book.” The executive also noted that “when you search for books related to vaccines or the coronavirus,” Amazon’s website has “a clear signpost at the top of the search page that links to the CDC page on vaccine information.”
This was a reference to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a lead agency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zach Butterworth, then the director of private sector engagement in the Biden White House, sent a screenshot of a book he found troubling.
“Five minutes ago I searched ‘vaccine’ on Amazon and the attached book was one of the first in the stack,” Butterworth wrote. “When I click on the product page I don’t see any CDC warning.”
Slavitt responded, noting that “right above it is the line ‘Vaccines are dangerous and don’t work’ promoting even another book.”
“The site caters to people who are anti-vax,” he argued.
An attachment to the email showed the webpage for the book “Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe and Effective Is Lying.” Dr. Vernon Coleman, a British doctor and vaccine skeptic, self-published the book; his website discourages readers from attempting to contact him.
Coleman had separately condemned COVID-19 vaccines as a dangerous medical experiment and claimed doctors who administer them are guilty of war crimes. PolitiFact rated his claims “Pants on Fire.”
“We need to get a SWAT team together and prepare a briefing later this week,” the Amazon executive responded to the White House. The context suggests the executive didn’t mean to refer to a police special weapons and tactics team, but it remains unclear why the executive used that term.
As The Daily Signal exclusively reported Monday, Amazon ultimately yielded to White House pressure to take action against vaccine-skeptical books, apparently shortly after a meeting with White House staff.
An Amazon employee noted that “we did enable Do Not Promote for anti-vax books whose primary purpose is to persuade readers vaccines are unsafe or ineffective on 3/9, and will review additional handling options for these books with you, [redacted], and [redacted] on 3/19.”
Slavitt became notorious when entrepreneur Elon Musk released the internal files of Twitter in 2022 and 2023 after he purchased the company in October 2022. Slavitt appears to have pressured social media companies repeatedly into suppressing opposition to the COVID-19 vaccines.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Slavitt on Nov. 30.
The committee told Slavitt that it “obtained documents that demonstrate the central role you played in communicating the Biden White House’s censorship efforts to social media companies, including the White House’s demands to censor true information, memes, satire, and other constitutionally protected forms of expression.”
The White House instructed Slavitt not to appear, the Washington Examiner reported Friday.
“Everything is on the table,” a Judiciary Committee spokesman told The Daily Signal about Slavitt’s refusal to abide by the panel’s subpoena.
Slavitt also had been involved in discussions with Facebook. That social media company admitted to suppressing “often-true content” because it contradicted the White House’s narrative on COVID-19 vaccines.
While discussing the suppression of vaccine-skeptical books, Amazon staff noted that the company had received pushback over its controversial decision in February 2021 to remove “When Harry Became Sally,” Ryan T. Anderson’s book on the transgender movement.
Amazon said the book violated its content policy. Anderson is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and previously was a senior fellow specializing in marriage and gender identity at The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
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