Social media heavyweights wooed for Pfizer smear campaign

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In this May 6, 2021 file photo syringes with the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 disease are ready at a new vaccination center in Paris. Social media influencers in France with hundreds of thousands of followers say a mysterious advertising agency offered to pay them if they agreed to smear Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine with negative fake stories. The smear effort drew a withering response from French Health Minister Olivier Veran, who called it "pathetic." (AP Photo/Michel Euler, FIle)

LE PECQ – Social media influencers in France with hundreds of thousands of followers say a mysterious advertising agency offered to pay them if they agreed to smear Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine with negative fake stories.

French YouTuber Léo Grasset was among those contacted. He said Tuesday that he was offered a potentially lucrative but also hush-hush deal to make bogus claims that Pfizer's vaccine poses a deadly risk and that regulators and mainstream media are covering up the supposed dangers.

Grasset, who has 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube, says he refused. Other France-based influencers with sizable audiences on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms also said they were contacted with similar offers of payment for posts.

The person who contacted Grasset identified himself as Anton and said his agency has a “quite considerable” budget for what he described as an “information campaign” about “COVID-19 and the vaccines offered to the European population, notably AstraZeneca and Pfizer.”

Specifically, Anton asked for a 45- to 60-second video on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube to say that “the mortality rate of the Pfizer vaccine is 3 times greater than the AstraZeneca" and querying why the European Union is buying it.

“This is a monopoly and is causing harm to public health," Anton claimed of EU's purchases.

He refused in a follow-up email to divulge who is financing the disinformation campaign, saying: “The client prefers to remain incognito.”

Grasset shared the email exchanges with The Associated Press.