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Fmr. NYT reporter says Biden White House demanded Twitter ban him

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks after his recovery from COVID-19 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
August 12, 2022

Biden administration officials asked Twitter to ban former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson from the platform over his tweets critical of COVID-19 vaccines, according to alleged internal communications at Twitter obtained by Berenson. 

In a Substack post published on Friday, Berenson shared photos of alleged internal communications between employees of the tech giant. In one of the messages, a Twitter employee recalls an April 2021 meeting between Twitter and the White House, during which he says a Biden official asked “one really tough question about why Alex Berenson hasn’t been kicked off from the platform.”

“How was [White House]?” the first message states. 

“Overall, pretty good! [They] had one really tough question about why Alex Berenson hasn’t been kicked off from the platform; otherwise, their questions were pointed but fair – and mercifully we had answers,” the second message replies. 

In a second exchange, Berenson is brought up again. It is unclear how many Twitter employees were involved in the messages. 

“JW – any high level takeaways from the meeting? Anything we should keep an eye out for?” one message states.

“Thanks for clarifying. And yes, they really wanted to know about Alex Berenson. Andy Slavitt suggested they had seen data viz that had showed he was the epicenter of disinfo that radiated outwards to the persuadable public,” the second message responds. 

Slavitt was a senior adviser to Biden’s coronavirus task force at the time, according to The Washington Post. 

As the White House was pressuring Twitter to ban Berenson, employees at the company said Bereson hadn’t broken any rules, according to the Substack post. Berenson said another internal message from a Twitter employee stated: “I’ve taken a pretty close look at [Berenson’s] account and I don’t think any of it’s violative.”

Over the summer, the Biden administration increasingly blamed social media companies for allowing so-called disinformation surrounding the vaccines to spread. In July 2021, President Biden even accused social media companies of “killing people.”

“They’re killing people,” Biden said, as reported by The New York Times. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that — and they’re killing people.” 

Within hours of Biden’s comment, Bereson was suspended from Twitter. Then, on August 28, 2021, Berenson was permanently banned. 

The former New York Times reporter later sued Twitter and won. His account was reinstated and, Bereson said, Twitter admitted that the tweet for which he was banned “should not have led to my suspension.”

“I obtained the message and other documents related to Twitter’s censorship of me as part of my lawsuit against Twitter over my August 2021 ban,” Bereson explained. “I filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco in December 2021. Twitter and I settled it last month, when Twitter restored my account and acknowledged it had erred in banning me.”

“The documents contain other revelations, including emails showing that other reporters asked Twitter to take action against me; I will report on those in the future,” he added. “More messages, emails, and internal documents are expected.”