Internal Amazon emails, provided to the House Judiciary Committee in response to a subpoena, reveal that White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response Andrew Slavitt concluded that the retail giant was trafficking in “misinformation” after conducting a cursory search on the topic of vaccines.
Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio posted a series of tweets on X: “Never-before-released internal emails subpoenaed by @JudiciaryGOP reveal that the Biden White House pressured Amazon to censor books that expressed views the White House did not approve of.”
One of the redacted emails that Jordan quotes quite clearly shows an Amazon executive asking the question, “Is the [Biden] Admin asking us to remove books?” The answer was unquestionably a ‘yes.’
“In early 2021, the Biden White House sent a series of emails to Amazon pressuring the online retailer to suppress the distribution of books that cast vaccines in a negative light. The administration was ultimately successful in its efforts: Amazon began limiting the visibility of titles that cast doubt on vaccine efficacy soon after hearing from the White House “, reports National Review.
“Who can we talk to about the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation of [sic] Amazon?” Slavitt asked an Amazon representative in an email dated March 2, 2021.
“If you search for ‘vaccines’ under books, I see what comes up,” Slavitt wrote in a follow-up email. “I haven’t looked beyond that but if that’s what’s on the surface, it’s concerning.”
Amazon initially held off on censoring any books, citing concerns that doing so would be “too visible” and grab the attention of conservative media outlets.
“We will not be doing a manual intervention today,” an email among Amazon executives reads. “The team/PR feels very strongly that it is too visible, and will further compound the Harry/Sally narrative (which is getting the Fox News treatment today apparently), and won’t fix the problem long-term . . . because of customer behavior associates.”
Before answering Slavitt, Amazon brainstormed potential responses to his inquiry. Defending its book-selling practices, the company said “retailers are different than social media communities” and that, as an online retailer, it provides “customers with access to a variety of viewpoints” on various topics, including vaccines. “Our guidelines do not specifically address content about vaccines,” another response reads.
Amazon met with the White House a week later, on March 9, 2021, after executives admitted in an internal email that they were “feeling pressure” from White House officials.’
The company’s “top talking points” for the meeting included whether the White House wanted books banned or buried in the search results. “Is the Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both)?” a company email states.