Pfizer board member and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has responded to the release of emails showing he pressured Twitter to censor posts, including one that accurately stated post-infection immunity is superior to that bestowed by COVID-19 shots from Pfizer and other companies.
Gottlieb said on Jan. 9 that he raised concerns with Twitter about posts that contained statements “that I believed were purposely false and inflammatory.”
One email showed Gottlieb writing a Twitter executive in 2021 regarding a post from Dr. Brett Giroir, who also headed the Food and Drug Administration at one point. In the post, Giroir summarized the results of a study from Israel that found post-infection immunity, or natural immunity, protected better than Pfizer vaccination. The study showed that there was no scientific justification to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination if a person had natural immunity, Giroir said, adding that people who did not have natural immunity should get vaccinated.
Gottlieb wrote in his email to Todd O’Boyle, a Twitter executive: “This is the kind of stuff that’s corrosive. Here he draws a sweeping conclusion off a single retrospective study in Israel that hasn’t been peer reviewed. But this tweet will end up going viral and driving news coverage.”
O’Boyle forwarded the message to Twitter analysts, who determined the post did not violate Twitter rules but still placed a “misleading” tag on it that prevented people from liking it, sharing it, and replying to it.
Giroir said on Tuesday that his post was accurate at the time, and remains accurate.
“I am not ‘anti-vax’ & even recommended vax in the tagged tweet. But there was no science basis for discriminating/tormenting/ruining those who had been naturally infected but were un-vaxed. @Twitter never responded to me,” he said.
Gottlieb also wrote to Twitter flagging a post from Justin Hart, a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic who accurately noted that the child mortality rate from COVID-19 is miniscule, reported Alex Berenson, a journalist who obtained the emails after Twitter CEO Elon Musk gave him access to Twitter’s files.
Twitter declined to censor Hart’s post.
In a third message, Gottlieb urged Twitter to censor Berenson after the writer penned a newsletter criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who recently stepped down. Gottlieb later said he was “very concerned with physical threats being made against people’s safety and the people who gin up those threats against individuals.”
Gottlieb this week decried the “selective disclosure” of messages he sent to Twitter and posted images of other missives he sent the company flagging death threats he received.
“The selective disclosure of my private communications with Twitter stokes the threat environment. So does actions that empower people who’ve shown little restraint when it comes to purposeful vitriol. It instigates more menacing dialogue, with potentially serious consequences,” Gottlieb said.
“If the goal of TwitterFiles is transparency, here’s some of the private e-mails I had with Twitter, related to threats and safety, which weren’t released; and which I repeatedly highlighted in my communications with the platform. Safety remains an existential concern for Twitter.”
Among the posts he flagged was a person calling to “execute” Gottlieb after it was announced he was named to Pfizer’s board.
Another message related to a post that Gottlieb said doxxed him, or revealed private information. “I have given it over to some security folks, but wanted to flag for you as well,” Gottlieb wrote to O’Boyle, who said he would send it to analysts right away.
O’Boyle is the same executive who took part in meetings on alleged COVID-19 misinformation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Twitter has not responded to an inquiry.
Berenson responded to Gottlieb, questioning what the email about Giroir’s post had to do with safety.
“Remind me how your efforts to censor another former @us_fda commissioner for a tweet about natural immunity have to do with the safety of anything other than @pfizer ’s massive profits?” Berenson asked Gottlieb, who has not replied as of press time, on Twitter.
A CNBC host, meanwhile, also posted a response to a critic who said that Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor, was always identified as a former FDA commissioner, not a Pfizer board member, whenever he appeared on CNBC.
“That’s total crap. He was identified as a Pfizer and Illumina board member every single time he was on. Know what the great thing about TV is hon? we have digital records. so the absolute crap you spew can be refuted,” Joe Kernen, a host of the network’s “Squawk Box” show which has often brought Gottlieb on during the pandemic, posted on Twitter.
CNBC discloses Gottlieb’s position with Pfizer at the start of segments featuring him, but the box on the screen throughout the interview only lists him being a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Additionally, some of the segment clips CNBC posts online cut off the initial portion, cutting off the disclosure of the Pfizer position.
CNBC did immediately not respond to a request for comment.