White House pressured Twitter to ban journalist months before it caved, messages suggest

"I’ve taken a pretty close look at his account and I don’t think any of it’s violative," employee says of Alex Berenson's tweets after tense White House meeting.

Updated: August 13, 2022 - 12:56am

The White House was pressuring Twitter to permanently suspend former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson for alleged COVID-19 misinformation months before the social media platform caved to the pressure, according to internal Twitter chat messages he obtained, Berenson said Friday.

Screenshots of Slack discussions he posted recount an April 22, 2021 meeting with White House officials, including COVID senior adviser Andy Slavitt. "[T]hey had one really tough question about why Alex Berenson hasn't been kicked off the platform," and "mercifully we had answers" to other questions that were "pointed but fair," an unnamed employee told another.

The employee continued that "they really wanted to know about Alex Berenson," with Slavitt referring to a data visualization pinpointing Berenson as "the epicenter of disinfo that radiated outwards to the persuadable public."

In a subsequent message Berenson didn't post, another employee reportedly said: "I’ve taken a pretty close look at his account and I don’t think any of it’s violative" of Twitter rules.

The resistance melted by mid-July, with Twitter temporarily suspending Berenson's account hours after President Biden publicly accused social media companies of "killing people" by not more stringently censoring purported COVID misinformation. Twitter permanently suspended him a month later.

Berenson returned to the platform last month in a settlement with Twitter. He's now planning to sue the Biden administration for the documented pressure on Twitter to ban him, Berenson said in a separate post.