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Ex-President Trump pushes back on anti-vaccine talking points


When high-profile politicians were rolling up their sleeves last winter to get vaccinated and trying to convince the public that it was safe, former President Donald Trump was nowhere to be seen. But now, as NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports, in multiple recent appearances, he's been touting the COVID vaccines and even pushing back against misinformation about them.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Biden supporters are more likely to be vaccinated than Trump supporters, and since vaccines became widely available, pro-Trump counties have had a far higher death rate from COVID. It's with this backdrop that over the weekend, the former president, in an onstage conversation with former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, said he'd gotten his booster.


BILL O'REILLY: Did you get the booster?


O'REILLY: I got it, too. OK, so...

TRUMP: Don't, don't, don't, don't, don't, don't. Don't - no, no.

KEITH: Those were faint boos you heard coming from the crowd. Trump had a message for those who oppose vaccines, which he described as a lifesaving scientific miracle.


TRUMP: Take credit for it. Take credit for - it's a great - what we've done is historic. Don't let them take away - don't take it away from ourselves. You're playing that - you're playing right into their hands.

KEITH: This prompted what is about as close as Trump gets to praise from President Biden, speaking Tuesday at the White House.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Maybe one of the few things he and I agree on.

KEITH: Trump told Fox News he appreciated it, but he didn't stop there. In an interview with conservative activist Candace Owens, he stayed completely on message, rejecting the anti-vaccine talking points she lobbed at him.


CANDACE OWENS: So people are questioning how...

TRUMP: We know the vaccine work.

OWENS: Yeah.

TRUMP: But some people aren't taking - the ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don't take the vaccine. But it's still their choice. And if you take the vaccine, you're protected.

KEITH: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that although the administration appreciates Trump's message on getting vaccinated, they haven't reached out to collaborate with the former president, who also continues to push lies about fraud in the 2020 election.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF HANDBOOK'S "CAN'T TALK NOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking news about global vaccine sharing and plans for distribution of vaccines to children under 12.