Lewis Hamilton insisted today he was ‘misinterpreted’ after he sparked backlash for sharing an anti-vaxxer video with his 18.3million Instagram followers which accused Bill Gates of lying about Covid-19 vaccine trials.
The six-time Formula One champion, 35, shared a video by content creator King Bach on his Instagram story twice, which shows tech billionaire Bill Gates being interviewed about the progress being made to develop a vaccine to fight Covid-19.
The caption on the video, which was not written by Hamilton, reads: ‘I remember when I told my first lie.’
In the footage, Gates can be heard playing down concerns of potential side-effects of a vaccine and rubbishes the baseless conspiracy theory that he plans to embed tracking chips into it once developed.
Hamilton has since issued an Instagram statement saying he had not seen the caption on the video and that the post had been misinterpreted after social media users criticised him for spreading ‘antivax nonsense’ and ‘misinformation’.
He wrote on social media: ‘I’ve noticed some comments on my earlier post about the coronavirus vaccine, and want to clarify my thoughts on it, as I understand why they might have been misinterpreted.
‘Firstly I hadn’t actually seen the comment attached so that is totally my fault and I have a lot of respect for the charity work Bill Gates does.
‘I also want to be clear that I am not against a vaccine and no doubt it will be important in the fight against coronavirus, and I’m hopeful for its development to save lives.
‘However after watching the video, I felt it showed that there is still a lot of uncertainty about the side effects most importantly and how it is going to be funded. I may not always get my posting right. I’m only human but I’m learning as we go.’
Gates, the Microsoft founder, now directs much of his time and energy to his global health foundation and backs South Korean company SK Bioscience.
He gave $3.6million (£2.8m) to the company in May for the purpose of accelerating the development of a vaccine to combat Covid-19.
And in a letter to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, as reported by Fortune, Gates stated he was convinced the company could produce as many as 200m vaccine kits by June 2021.
Vaccination is the latest controversy Hamilton has involved himself with after he recently branded Bernie Ecclestone ‘ignorant and uneducated’ after the ex-Formula 1 boss made comments about racism.
Ecclestone, 89, told CNN that ‘in lots of cases, black people are more racist than what white people are’.
World champion Hamilton said Ecclestone’s remarks were ‘sad and disappointing’.
Hamilton attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park last month after global uproar following the death of George Floyd and has taken the knee at sporting events including the recent Hungarian Grand Prix.
Following the recent controversy over race, Hamilton’s decision to share the anti-vaxxer post today, which suggested Gates was lying in an interview on US television, has been met with condemnation.
One Hamilton fan wrote on Twitter: ‘Oh @LewisHamilton Please don’t spread antivax nonsense. I’ve been a huge fan for years through thick and thin, but spreading antivax nonsense is outrageously irresponsible.’
Others questioned his lack of questioning of the material, with one writing: ‘Disappointed in @LewisHamilton posting Antivaxx nonsense in his IG stories without thought or challenge. Do better.’
In the video, when asked about conspiracy theories that he was responsible for creating the virus, or implanting microchips within a potential vaccine, Gates, with a wry smile, says he has no idea where that baseless suggestion came from.
‘No, there is no connection between any of these vaccines and any tracking type thing,’ he said. ‘I have no idea where this came from.’
He continues: ‘Dr Fauci (America’s top infectious disease official) and I are the two most mentioned. Some of these are deeply ironic. Our foundation is about reducing death and bringing equity to health.
‘The idea that we get accused of creating chips, or the virus – I think we need to get the truth out there, and explain our values, and why we are willing to put billions towards accelerating the progress.
‘It’s a little unclear to me, but I hope this will die down as people get the facts.’
Hamilton is due back in the UK this week as he prepares for Formula One’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He has used his platform as the sport’s biggest name to urge fans to stay away from the track as the race takes place behind closed doors.
‘It’s not my job to come up with rules and tell people what to do,’ Hamilton told Autosport. ‘What I see on TV is people out trying to live their lives during this difficult time, but this thing continues to spread. So, I always just try to encourage people to keep their distance and remain at home.’
Last week, Boris Johnson blasted anti-vaxxers as ‘nuts’ and urged everyone to get the flu vaccine this summer.
The PM lashed out at those who don’t get their jabs as the Government launched a huge new drive to try and protect the NHS this winter ahead of a possible second coronavirus wave.
Fellow sports star tennis player Novak Djokovic has also come under fire for his stance on vaccinations.
Djokovic, 32, said: ‘Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.
‘But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.
‘I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.’