During his first on-camera interview since leaving office three months ago, former President Donald Trump did what he does best on Monday night: make unsubstantiated claims and provide little to no evidence to back them up.
Speaking to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump suggested that federal health agencies recommended a pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because the Food and Drug Administration is in bed with Pfizer, the manufacturer of one of the other federally approved COVID-19 vaccines. And that is the reason why Trump won’t “do a commercial” promoting the efficacy and safety of the shots.
While the twice-impeached ex-president has done several phone-in interviews with right-wing media outlets in recent weeks, Monday night’s sit-down conversation with close pal Hannity was his first in front of the camera since leaving the White House in disgrace after inciting an insurrectionist mob to storm the Capitol.
If Trump was even slightly concerned about getting any tough questions from the Fox News star on Monday night, Hannity swiftly put those worries to rest.
“You are working as hard as you did when you were in the White House, except you play a little golf more,” Hannity kicked off their conversation at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. “You are keeping an insane schedule, seven days a week. You really don’t stop!”
After Trump and Hannity made fun of President Joe Biden tripping up the steps of Air Force One, all while Trump made sure everyone knew how “slippery” and “steep” the ramp was at his infamous West Point walk, the Fox host gushed over Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Why did Operation Warp Speed work so well?” Hannity wondered aloud about the Trump administration’s public-private partnership to ramp up vaccine development and production.
Trump, for his part, claimed that public health experts told him that “the quickest you are going to have the vaccine is three years,” while others told him “it could be five years.” On top of that, according to the ex-president, he was also told it “could be longer than that and it could also not happen.”
“And then I got involved,” Trump boasted. “I said, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ I got involved with the FDA. They hate me so badly and I understand it.”
From there, the former president decided to weigh in on the FDA calling for a pause on the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson shot after a handful of rare blood-clot cases were found in women who had recently received the vaccine.
“I will give you a little breaking news,” Trump declared. “Pfizer is in with the FDA, and what the FDA did with Johnson & Johnson is so stupid. You know, they all want me to do a commercial because a lot of our people don’t want to take the vaccine. I don’t know what that is exactly, Republican, I don’t know what it is.”
With Trump invoking the rise of vaccine hesitancy among conservatives, Hannity asked Trump if he encourages people to get the shot. (Trump told Fox News last month that he “would recommend” getting vaccinated.)
“I encourage people to take it. I do. I had it and I took it,” the ex-president said before once again claiming that “they want me to do a commercial saying take the vaccine,” adding that he’d “certainly do it” before implying that he’s reluctant due to the halt in administering J&J shots.
“It’s terrible. But they paused it. That is the worst thing they could have done from a public relations standpoint,” he huffed. “They paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And it probably affects the other vaccines a little bit. But they paused it. It has had a devastating impact. I said they want me to do a commercial, some commercial, and then they do this pause.”
Over a month ago, the rest of the living ex-presidents—minus Trump—appeared in a PSA urging all Americans to get their shots. Considering that the pause only happened a few days ago, it seems unlikely that the J&J decision was the reason why Trump did not appear.
After hammering the FDA and Pfizer some more, the president once again insinuated that they were in cahoots to hamstring Johnson & Johnson.
“So Pfizer got together, and I’ll tell you something, I think it is very suspect what they did with Johnson & Johnson,” he bellowed. “Because the only people that are happy about that are Pfizer and Moderna. The only people that are happy about that, ’cuz what they did is a terrible, terrible thing!”