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Biden offers rare praise of Trump during Covid speech
(CNN)President Joe Biden on Tuesday gave credit to the Trump administration for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine and praised his predecessor, Donald Trump, for getting a booster shot — marking a rare moment where the two men have found common ground since Inauguration Day.
“I got my booster shot as soon as they were available,” Biden said during a speech from the White House about his administration’s efforts to address the Omicron variant of Covid-19, adding, “and just the other day former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot.”
“It may be one of the few things he and I agree on,” Biden continued. “People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us.”
Unvaccinated people face a 10 times greater risk of testing positive and 20 times greater risk of dying from Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people who have also received a booster, according to data published recently by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During Tuesday’s speech, Biden also praised the Trump administration for its efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine before he took office.
“Let me be clear. Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America was one of the first countries to get the vaccine,” Biden said. “Thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a roll out, made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms.”
The President’s comments come two days after video was released showing Trump being booed by a crowd when he disclosed he’d received his booster shot at an event with Bill O’Reilly.
According to video tweeted by O’Reilly’s “No Spin News,” the former Fox News host said, “Both the President and I are vaxxed,” and then asks Trump, “Did you get the booster?”
“Yes,” Trump said to a smattering of boos in the audience.
“Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” Trump said, appearing to try to quiet the boos. “That’s all right. It’s a very tiny group over there.”
Trump has long championed his administration’s efforts to develop Covid vaccines, but he rarely discusses his vaccination status and has largely declined to encourage others to get it.
The former President’s disclosure is a shift from his past stance. Trump previously said in a Wall Street Journal interview published in September that he was unlikely to get the booster shot, saying that he felt like he was “in good shape from that standpoint” and “probably won’t” get the booster.
“I’ll look at stuff later on,” he added. “I’m not against it, but it’s probably not for me.”
In a longer video later tweeted by O’Reilly’s site, Trump warned supporters that they are “playing right into their hands” when they dismiss the vaccines and don’t take credit for their development during his administration.
“Look, we did something that was historic. We saved tens of millions of lives worldwide. We — together. All of us, not me,” Trump said in the video, which comes right before Trump receives the smattering of boos.
Trump went on to say in the video that Covid-19 was going to “ravage the country far beyond what it is right now” if the vaccines had not been developed. But the former President also criticized vaccine mandates.
“If you don’t want to take it, you shouldn’t be forced to take it. No mandates. But take credit, because we saved tens of millions of lives. Take credit. Don’t let them take that away from you,” Trump said.
Trump, who contracted Covid while serving office, received his first vaccination out of view of the press before leaving office. CNN reported months later that his vaccination was not recorded by official photographers or videographers, according to a person familiar with the matter.
During his speech on Tuesday, Biden said unvaccinated Americans “are responsible for their own choice, but those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media.” Though he didn’t name names, the spread of some Covid-19 disinformation and anti-vaccine rhetoric can be credited to Trump allies and right-wing press.
“You know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters,” Biden added. “It’s wrong. It’s immoral. I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it. Stop it now.”
Biden has long asserted that the national effort to combat Covid-19 and rebound the economy is not political, but the President has faced declining approval numbers that coincide with a Delta variant surge and reimposed public health restrictions.
On the road, including in red states, Biden has spared few opportunities to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19. He did it last week Kentucky — a state where only 53.5% of residents are fully vaccinated — while surveying damage from recent storms and tornadoes.
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.