Biden’s SOTU Cancer Reference Was No Gaffe

Published March 12, 2024

When President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union speech that the “vaccines that saved us from COVID are now being used to help beat cancer,” the internet went crazy. Unless you were a pharmaceutical CEO, you might think that this was a bizarre gaffe or a very big announcement. Big Pharma understood the message perfectly, and the news was welcomed with open arms.

President Biden approaching a podium is like a bus sliding down an icy hill. You don’t know where it is going or what it will hit, but you cannot turn away. Perhaps the increase in viewership for this year’s State of the Union was due to a perverse desire to witness one of the president’s increasingly common “Biden moments” of confusion and unpredictable behaviors. When he talked about COVID-19 vaccines and cancer, nearly everyone must have cringed, wondering what he meant to say. Why would the president want Americans to hear that the COVID-19 vaccines are now being used to fight cancer? His team undoubtedly vetted the speech and had to expect most people would understand that to mean that the vaccines in some way work against cancer.

Shamelessly, CNN left Biden’s claim about COVID-19 vaccines and cancer out of their fact-check entirely.

Newsweek dutifully came to the president’s defense and traced the claim to a $24 million grant looking into how mRNA research is aiding immune response, and declared only “bad faith or narrow interpretation of Biden’s comments could have driven the idea that he was literally referring to the treatments developed by Pfizer, Moderna and others, and not new technologies.” Of course, that is nonsense.

In 2020, when President Trump was accused of promoting bleach injections to combat COVID-19, Newsweek was all too happy to promote the story as true before finally debunking it after the election. Headlines claiming “Biden Says COVID-19 Vaccine Cures Cancer!” are unlikely to show up at any time soon. Unfair to be sure, but likely part of a larger strategy.

Democrats, like Republicans, are losing their enthusiasm in defining political differences around responses to a pandemic they no longer believe is a top priority. In November 2020, 85 percent of Democrats believed the pandemic constituted a “major threat.” Today, that number has dwindled to 28 percent. With Trump’s support of Operation Warp Speed, it will make it a heavy lift for either party to use coronavirus vaccines effectively as a political wedge in this fall’s presidential election.

President Biden has been promising for a very long time to keep the spigots of COVID-19 money flowing wide open, long after the pandemic has faded. Now, with only 28 percent of Americans up to date on their vaccinations, the pharmaceutical industry needed to feel the love in the State of the Union speech.

“I want you to know that once we beat COVID, we’re going to do everything we can to end cancer as we know it” Biden said in 2021 while appearing at the Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in Kalamazoo Michigan. In other words, “delete COVID, insert CANCER” on future spending requests. In fact, Biden promised to develop a “DARPA-like advanced research effort on cancer and other diseases, just like there is DARPA in the Defense Department that develops the breakthroughs to protect our country.”

After 40 years of Dr. Fauci and his Soviet-style management tactics at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the last thing we need is more government control coupled with an off-the-books, secret bureau for medical research. To be sure, a debate about why and how to fund cancer research is more than appropriate. However, it is disturbing and unbecoming that Biden has chosen to conflate and confuse the search for a cure for cancer with the COVID-19 vaccines, which remain a controversial subject to this day.

Photo by Gage Skidmore. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.