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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen June 16, 2023

No, Pfizer is not paying Anderson Cooper $12 million to promote COVID vaccine

If Your Time is short

  • There is no evidence that Pfizer is paying CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s salary to promote the COVID-19 vaccine.

Democratic presidential candidate and well-known anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in October argued the pharmaceutical industry has an outsized influence over the evening news.

Take CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Kennedy told London Real podcaster Brian Rose: "Anderson Cooper has a $12 million annual salary," Kennedy said. "Well, $10 million of that is coming from Pfizer."

Now, a June 6 Instagram post is taking that statement even further. It shows a screenshot of a tweet that reads, "JUST IN: Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says Pfizer funneled $12 million to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as part of a deal to promote mRNA COVID jabs to the American public." 

"RFK Jr. doesn’t say things he can’t back up," the post’s caption says.

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We could not find credible information on how much Cooper makes at CNN, and CNN did not comment on his salary.

But our reporting found three problems with this post:

One, the post distorts what Kennedy said. Two, Kennedy’s spokesperson told PolitiFact that what Kennedy did say about Cooper’s salary should not be taken literally. Three, a CNN spokesperson said claims by both Kennedy and the Instagram post are wrong.

"This claim is fabricated and false," CNN Senior Communications Director Bridget Leininger told PolitiFact.

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In Kennedy’s full Oct. 2 interview with Rose, who has promoted false claims in the past, Kennedy criticized "the media" as "an extension of the pharmaceutical industry," claiming that the overwhelming share of advertising revenues "come from pharma and that ratio is even higher for the evening news."

Then, he said that Pfizer specifically pays Cooper $10 million of his $12 million yearly salary to promote the company’s drugs.  

"His boss is not CNN, his boss is Pfizer — and they’re unashamed of it," Kennedy said. "Of course, (Cooper’s) not going to tell you the truth about Pfizer’s product. He’s going to try to sell them to you. He’s going to scare the hell out of you by saying, ‘If you don’t get this (drug), you’re going to die.’"

During the interview, Kennedy did not provide sources to support his claim.

When we emailed Kennedy’s campaign to ask about the claim regarding Cooper’s salary, a spokesperson called it a "misstatement, which is not meant to be taken literally."

His campaign said it was part of a larger point about what the pharmaceutical industry spends in advertising.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that "Pfizer funneled $12 million to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as part of a deal to promote mRNA COVID jabs to the American public."

The post credited anti-vaccination advocate and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as the claim’s source. That’s a distortion of Kennedy’s comments, but Kennedy did not provide any information to back up a related assertion — that Pfizer contributes $10 million toward Cooper’s salary. 

A spokesperson for his campaign said the statement was not meant to be taken literally. A spokesperson for CNN called his remarks "fabricated and false."

We rate this claim False. 

Our Sources

Instagram post (archive), June 6, 2023

Rumble post (archive), May 31, 2023 

Vice, "The YouTuber accused of using coronavirus to scam his followers," May 21, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking ‘Plandemic 2’: Another video full of conspiracy theories about COVID-19," Aug. 18, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking ‘Plandemic’: A documentary full of false conspiracy theories about the coronavirus," May 7, 2020

London Real YouTube Page, "Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - Censorship, Fauci & The Truth About Big Pharma PART 1 of 2" (archive), Oct. 2, 2022, "RFK Jr. video pushes known vaccine misrepresentations," March 11, 2021

PolitiFact, "No, the COVID-19 vaccine is not the deadliest vaccine ever made," Dec. 10, 2021

Email with Bridget Leininger, CNN spokesperson, June 8, 2023

Email with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. press team, June 9, 2023

Fierce Pharma, "The top 10 pharma drug ad spenders for 2022," May 1, 2023

Ad Age, "Pfizer sets massive review for creative and media," Feb. 24, 2023

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More by Andy Nguyen

No, Pfizer is not paying Anderson Cooper $12 million to promote COVID vaccine

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