Testimony from an official at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention alleges that multiple instances of political interference may have occurred in the department.
Are you shocked? I’m not shocked.
NBC News reports that Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic, wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield that demanded a response to the allegations presented by the employee.
Clyburn said that during a transcribed hearing, Charlotte Kent, chief of the Scientific Publications Branch and editor-in-chief of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, alleged that she had been ordered to delete an email from a political official that demanded the CDC change its wording in a previously published report. From Kent’s understanding, the order came from Redfield himself.
In an Aug. 8 email, political appointee Paul Alexander demanded that the CDC change their wording in a scientific report about the effect COVID-19 has on children.
“CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school reopening. ... Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear. ... This is designed to hurt the president for their reasons which I am not interested in,” the email read.
Man, it’s crazy how that exact thing happened. If only someone told them. Oh wait.
From NBC News:
Alexander is an assistant professor of health research at McMaster University near Toronto who served as a scientific adviser to Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background who became an HHS spokesman.
Kent stated that she received a call the following morning from another career official instructing her to delete the email at the request of Redfield. She said she did not speak directly to Redfield but understood the directive came from him. When Kent tried to find the email, she said it had already disappeared, according to committee aides who briefed reporters.
The CDC is among the key agencies responsible for communicating with the public about the Covid-19 pandemic. Scientists have long maintained a firewall around their findings and reports to prevent political interference.
According to Politico, that firewall has been breached during the pandemic, as politically installed communications aides such as Caputo have been allowed to review and press for changes to the wording in the CDC’s reports.
I mean, it just makes sense.
In the midst of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and put millions out of work, the most important thing they can do is to make sure the data doesn’t make the president look bad. Sure, the president could use that data to make informed decisions that actually help the country, but come on now, that’s too much like doing the job he applied for.
A spokesperson for the HHS disputed Clyburn’s characterization of events, calling it “irresponsible.”
“We urge the Subcommittee to release the transcript in full which will show that during her testimony Dr. Kent repeatedly said there was no political interference in the MMWR process,” the spokesperson said, adding that “despite HHS working diligently to accommodate the Select Subcommittee’s many requests, the Subcommittee is not operating in good faith.”
Clyburn is seeking an interview with Redfield over the allegation and has requested that the department produce additional requested documents by Dec.15 or face a subpoena. Clyburn also warned that intentionally destroying certain documents is a federal crime under The Federal Records Act.
Kent also testified that the incident involving the email wasn’t the only instance of political interference at the CDC. Kent also said the CDC delayed publishing a report about an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Georgia summer camp until after Redfield testified before the subcommittee on July 31. During that hearing, Redfield advocated for the return of in-person learning during the fall, despite the data in the report clearly showing that might not be the best idea.
I’m so ready to be done with these niggas, I swear.
As for the HHS, well according to Clyburn’s letter they immediately canceled four transcribed interviews that were set to occur between the committee and other CDC employees. So yeah, there’s totally nothing sketchy going on in the organizations charged with handling one of the biggest public health crises in American history.