ABC News edited out portion of CDC director's answer about vaccine study, creating confusion online

Media top headlines January 11

In media news today, ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ gets worried Madison Cawthorn might ask to come on the show, an LA Times columnist says publicly mocking deaths of anti-vaxxers is ‘necessary’ to create ‘teachable moments,’ and ‘The View’ host Sunny Hostin says she no longer trusts CDC guidelines.

ABC News edited out a key portion of its interview on Friday with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, creating confusion about remarks she made about a study showing vaccine efficacy against the coronavirus.

Walensky appeared on “Good Morning America” Friday, where interviewer Cecilia Vega asked her about a CDC study on vaccines largely preventing severe COVID-19 outcomes. However, the segment that aired on television and was initially posted online appeared to edit out the beginning of Walensky’s answer.

The original clip showed this exchange, where an abrupt edit occurred between the end of Vega’s question and Walensky’s response.

“I want to ask you about those encouraging headlines that we’re talking about this morning, this new study showing just how well vaccines are working to prevent severe illness. Given that, is it time to start rethinking how we’re living with this virus, that it’s potentially here to stay?” Vega asked.

“The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities,” Walensky said. “So really, these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of omicron. This means not only just to get your primary series but to get your booster series, and yes, we’re really encouraged by these results.”

As a result, some believed she was referring to all COVID-19 fatalities, when in reality she was referring to the deaths in the study among those who were vaccinated.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and new emerging variants at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. January 11, 2022.
(Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS)

The edit was confirmed Monday when, after Fox News Digital inquired about the apparent missing footage – the initial interview has an abrupt edit between Vega’s question and Walensky’s response – an ABC News spokeswoman directed it to a fuller version of the interview that included crucial context. A CDC spokesman also confirmed Walensky was referring to deaths among vaccinated people, not all COVID-19 deaths.

ABC News released the unedited version which showed Walensky detailing the study before her remarks about the “overwhelming number of deaths.”

“You know, really important study,” Walensky said. “If I may just summarize it, a study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December [of 2020] and October and demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about 0.015 percent of the people who received their primary series, and death in .003 percent of those people.”

The unedited clip added a little more than 20 seconds to the interview’s length, and it made clear she was talking about the CDC study. The full video is up on the show’s YouTube channel as well.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky gives her opening statement during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on "Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 4, 2021.
(REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)

On its web video version, ABC News has affixed a note that it’s included an “extended version” of the interview and noted the shorter one “edited for time” was broadcast on Friday.

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