Trump allies working in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have spent months trying to muddle the messaging about the Coronavirus pandemic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a new report from POLITICO. These Trump allies include Michael Caputo, who’s the current HHS spokesperson despite his total lack of public health experience, and Paul Alexander, an assistant professor of health research at a university in Canada who currently serves as a “scientific adviser” for Caputo. The two of them have apparently run on the idea that there’s some nefarious potential anti-Trump conspiracy at the CDC — even as Americans die, they refuse to let go of their political nonsense.
Caputo and Alexander have targeted the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs), which POLITICO summarizes as “the main vehicle for the agency to inform doctors, researchers and the general public about how Covid-19 is spreading and who is at risk.” During the pandemic, the reports have already been used as sources of critical information about topics like the spread of the virus among particularly vulnerable communities, like nursing homes. Prior to the pandemic, the reports have a critical history — for example, one of the reports from 1981 alerted medical professionals about the pattern of disease that turned out to be the HIV pandemic.
Now, there “have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump’s statements, including the president’s claims that fears about the outbreak are overstated, or stop the reports altogether,” according to POLITICO.
In an email that Alexander sent CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield (and others) on August 8, he said:
‘CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration… CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening… Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear.’
This claim sounds totally delusional. CDC doctors are not sitting around en masse and trying to figure out how to make Donald Trump look bad. They’re trying to do their jobs.
However, Alexander went so far that he demanded the ability to review the entirety of all future MMWR reports before their publication. Alexander, it’s worth noting, insisted that he wanted to make sure that the reports (which cover basic facts) are “fair and balanced.” That is the slogan for Fox News. It seems clear where Alexander is getting his information.
Trump, of course, is far from a remotely credible source on the Coronavirus pandemic — at one point, he suggested exploring injecting household disinfectants as a potential treatment for the virus, although he eventually claimed he was joking — but Caputo and Alexander have pushed his perspective anyway. For instance, after Caputo’s team “raised questions” about a document describing the usage of hydroxychloroquine amidst the pandemic, the document was delayed for a month and just published last week, according to POLITICO. Trump has pushed hydroxychloroquine as if he hopes that it’s some kind of silver bullet to stop the pandemic, but the report that his lackeys delayed states that “the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh their risks.”
The FDA must approve drugs or vaccines based on their safety and effectiveness – NOT political pressure from the White House.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 22, 2020
Trump, it’s worth noting, has himself publicly peddled some of the same unhinged conspiracies that have appeared to drive Caputo and Alexander. Earlier this year, he suggested that the “deep state” at the FDA was “hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd” to make him look bad, presumably. This claim is total nonsense.
The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives! @SteveFDA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2020