Media starts a rumor that Justice Thomas ‘suggests’ COVID vax made with aborted children

The media engaged in clickbait while falsely accusing Justice Clarence Thomas of suggesting in a dissenting opinion that COVID vaccines are made with aborted fetuses.

The allegation against Justice Thomas came after he issued a dissenting opinion on Thursday concerning a case where the Supreme Court declined to hear a religious liberty challenge to New York’s COVID vaccine mandate from 16 healthcare workers. Currently, the state requires that all healthcare workers show proof of vaccination.

“They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children,” Thomas wrote in his opinion. Note that what he said is not his stance on the issue but that of the petitioners.

Regardless of that fact, Axios, NBC News, Business Insider, Politico, and others all ran with clickbait headlines asserting that Thomas was claiming that the vaccines use cells from aborted fetuses.

According to Axios, which got the ball rolling on this particular smear campaign, the devil is in the details but any excuse to take a poke at Thomas will do.

“No coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. contains the cells of aborted fetuses,” the media outlet claimed.

“Some vaccines have used fetal cell lines during the early stages of the vaccine development, but the final products do not contain fetal cells. Additionally, these fetal cells came from elective abortions ‘performed decades ago,'” Axios reported on the one hand denying fetal cells are used and on the other justifying it. Politico, Business Insider, and NBC News followed suit.

“This is a practice that is common when developing any type of vaccine, not just those for coronavirus,” Axios stated.

Politico took it a step further in the justification of using the cells, using deadly diseases to make its case: “None of the Covid-19 vaccines in the United States contain the cells of aborted fetuses. Cells obtained from elective abortions decades ago were used in testing during the Covid vaccine development process, a practice that is common in vaccine testing — including for the rubella and chickenpox vaccinations.”

Politico even noted that Thomas did not make the claim himself lower down in their piece after leveling the accusation, saying, “Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in his dissenting opinion. And some Thomas defenders noted that he was simply reciting the allegations made by those refusing to get the vaccine.”

Business Insider was blunter in its accusation against Thomas: “Justice Clarence Thomas repeated a misleading claim on Thursday that COVID-19 vaccines were developed using cell lines from ‘aborted children.'” That misleadingly makes it sound as though Thomas made the claim instead of the petitioners which is inaccurate.

NBC News was even worse on this, if that is possible, reporting: “In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas expressed support Thursday for a debunked claim that all Covid vaccines are made with cells from ‘aborted children.'” That is not what Thomas did. He took a stand for religious liberty as provided in the Constitution. He did not comment one way or another on the claim.

Distinguished Senior Fellow and Antonin Scalia Chair in Constitutional Studies Ed Whelan made some great points on all of this via Twitter, taking issue specifically with NBC’s take on the dissent.

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