Former Trump official in demand after persuading Twitter to back down on COVID censorship

James Lawrence III secured reinstatements for journalist Alex Berenson and epidemiologist Andrew Bostom.

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 10:49am

A Trump administration lawyer secured journalist Alex Berenson's reinstatement to Twitter in a legal settlement and got quick results when he warned the social media platform on behalf of Ivy League epidemiologist Andrew Bostom last week.

James Lawrence III, former Department of Health and Human Services deputy general counsel and chief counsel at the FDA, is now being sought by other users also sanctioned for sharing "misleading and potentially harmful" information related to COVID-19.

Kevin McKernan, a veteran genomics researcher on the verge of permanent suspension, said he's "in contact" with Lawrence but declined to specify further to Just the News. 

Daniel Kotzin, an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccines whose spouse has a large Twitter following, suggested he'd hire Lawrence after losing his first lawsuit, which alleged Twitter colluded with federal officials to sanction and deplatform him. (A similar lawsuit by Republican attorneys general is moving into discovery.)

Lawrence has not responded to queries about either case.

Bostom told Just the News that Twitter reinstated his account, suspended for sharing a peer-reviewed study on COVID vaccines and male fertility, within "a few hours" of Lawrence's legal threat letter, which gave Twitter a July 21 deadline.

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Lawrence noted Bostom's voluminous research and publishing when he was on the faculty at Brown University's medical school. He's now a research physician at a Brown-affiliated hospital.

Bostom was not saying "the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility" but rather "citing research and asking questions," Lawrence told Twitter head of legal Vijaya Gadde. Twitter's misinformation ban explicitly exempts "debate about research" that does not "intentionally misrepresent research findings."

Using the same breach-of-contract argument that convinced a federal judge to let Berenson's lawsuit continue, Lawrence said Twitter ignored "its own progressive discipline policy" and instead "retrofit" Bostom's single flagged tweet into its repeated-violation policy.

Kevin McKernan managed MIT's research and development for the Human Genome Project. "You can restore this account to zero strikes, or prepare for some legal expense," he wrote in a Saturday tweet thread after his latest lockup in "TwitMo."

"I won't lose," he said, tagging Twitter support. "I have your receipts and it’s clear you have amateurs in charge of your censorship operation."

Twitter permanently suspends accounts with five "strikes" for COVID misinformation. McKernan, whose latest startup focuses on the genomics of cannabis, showed Just the News the four notices he received from Twitter over the past month, all for tweets about COVID vaccines.

The first three were lockouts for claiming that teenagers don't need the vaccines because the virus is not "harmful" to them, the vaccines' Wuhan-strain mechanism doesn't work against the Omicron variant, and the Pfizer vaccine trial "had more deaths in the vax arm than the placebo." 

Stanford medical professor Jay Bhattacharya criticized Twitter for the third, asking the platform to choose between "open science discussion or a place safe primarily for government propaganda."

JavaScript creator and Brave Software founder Brendan Eich, an early cancel-culture scalp, also defended McKernan.

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The fourth notice on Friday prevents interaction with a McKernan tweet in which he claimed COVID vaccines have uniquely "transfected cells" and their spike protein is a "super-antigen that contains an SEB domain," referring to staphylococcal enterotoxin B and its "potent toxicity."

Days before his latest sanction, McKernan called on his followers to report the National Institutes of Health to Twitter for misinformation. The successor to the Human Genome Project had claimed that "the synthetic mRNA in the vaccine acts like any other mRNA that your cells make."

Unlike "natural mRNA," the mRNA vaccines have "N1 methyl pseudouridine," he wrote. "Patents exist on these molecules. NIH is a benefactor. You can't patent natural mRNA." 

McKernan speculated there's a "larger potential court case" in whether NIH is "spreading vax mis information [sic] to stimulate vaccine uptake because they have patent royalty for the vaccines."

NIH didn't respond to requests for its response.

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The researcher did a preprint study last fall with cardiologist Peter McCullough, who has also questioned COVID vaccines. The paper "itemizes the differences between the mRNA in the vax and the virus" and may have played a role in his Twitter sanctions, McKernan told Just the News. 

The article fell victim to unexplained editorial purgatory this year at the open-access science publisher Hindawi, McKernan said, sharing correspondence with Hindawi staff going back to March. The authors have since pulled it.

Staff first said the paper had been "reviewed favorably" but asked for revisions to address "minor concerns." Subsequent responses to McKernan's requests for updates said the academic editor hadn't made a "final decision," the manuscript was under investigation by a "research integrity team," it was "currently being handled by our in-house staff members," and then "currently under processing" as of April 27.

"Despite numerous weekly emails asking for the status of this undisclosed process," he said, "we are met with the same reply" that the "relevant team" will contact the authors "shortly." McKernan and McCullough have not "experienced this extrajudicial review at any journal in our lifetime."

On April 22, Twitter suspended Kotzin, the husband of Jennifer Sey, the former president of Levi's who resigned her position to preserve her freedom to air her opinions about COVID. "Myocarditis, pericarditis, blood clots, and strokes are known potential side effects of covid vaccination," Kotzin had tweeted.

On July 15, Kotzin informed Twitter that earlier that day the reinstated Berenson tweeted verbatim the same phrase that had precipitated his own suspension in April — without even drawing a "misleading" label.

"[T]his is my last attempt to get them to voluntarily follow their own rules," Kotzin wrote in his newsletter Friday

Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy declined to comment on the timing of Bostom's reinstatement, allegations by McKernan and potential litigation by Kotzin.

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