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Trump advisors convinced him to stop promoting vaccines, fearing backlash from his base, report says

Former President Donald Trump throws a cap into the audience at the ‘Save America’ rally on January 29, 2022 in Conroe, Texas.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

  • Donald Trump has abandoned advocating for COVID-19 vaccines, Politico reported.
  • Trump had in recent weeks challenged some of his supporters by advocating the shots.
  • But his advisors are said to have worried that pro-vaccine positions would alienate Trump’s base.

Former President Donald Trump stopped advocating for COVID vaccines after being told by advisors that it could alienate his base, Politico reported.

According to the outlet, Trump and those close to him began to doubt his earlier position of advocating for the vaccines, which were developed under his administration. 

At Saturday’s rally in Conroe, Texas, Trump completely avoided the subject.

It was a marked difference to recent rallies and interviews, where Trump defended the vaccines and called on supporters to get booster shots. He even insulted figures like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as “gutless” for declining to say whether, like Trump, they had been boosted.

Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who promotes COVID and vaccine disinformation on his podcast, said that anti-vaccine sentiment was a powerful force that Trump would not want to oppose.

“The vaccine ‘hesitant,’ the vaccine ‘resistant’ and the anti-vaxx are a rising political force in the country — a force that will start to gain power in the primaries,” he said.

“Even President Trump’s most ardent MAGA followers— vaccinated or not— do not want him discussing this.”

The change in messaging comes after signs of a wobble in Trump’s support. An Associated Press report, citing polling data, found a slight decline in his support from the GOP base. 

Anti-vaccine views were once relegated to the political fringes, but amid a campaign by right-wing media figures and politicians who have flourished by opposing the virus strategy of President Joe Biden, they have come to be embraced by a large swath of Republicans.

DeSantis is positioning himself as a potential challenger to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, and has built a political brand around opposition to measures to contain the virus, including vaccine mandates from the Biden administration.

Trump also declared himself opposed mandating the vaccine, even while earlier encouraging people to get it voluntarily.

One former advisor told Politico that a “course correction” had taken place to inhabit the “safe” territory of opposing mandates without dealing with more contentious territory.

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