In a disturbing new report from Politico, politically appointed cronies of the president have been interfering and making changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly scientific reports in order to better align with Trump’s publicly stated messages regarding the coronavirus.
Politico’s Friday exclusive cites administration communications aides, including former Trump campaign officer and now assistant secretary for public affairs of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Caputo — who has no medical or scientific qualifications — sending emails successfully pressuring CDC officials “to change the language” in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR). These reports, which the CDC has created for decades, are distributed to doctors and health officials on the front lines and are intended to deliver the government’s most up-to-date information on the virus and how it spreads.
In emails to CDC Director Robert Redfield, Politico reported, politically appointed communications officials “openly complained that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak.” And, although other CDC officials have pushed back and refused to make some of the suggested significant changes to the historically non-political and important scientific MMWR weekly reports, the pressure did result in an almost month-long delay of one report that advised against doctors prescribing the Trump-endorsed drug hydroxychloroquine.
Caputo claims the interference is an attempt to thwart an untrue conspiracy that some supporters of the president rely upon to compromise away their nefarious behavior in order to do Trump’s dirty work: the alleged “deep state.”
“Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic — not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC,” Caputo told Politico.
In an August 8th email sent to Redfield, an adviser to Caputo, Dr. Paul Alexander, chided CDC scientists, calling their reports “hit pieces” and accused the agency of purposely exaggerating the virus’ effect on children in order to “hurt the President” while Trump pushed for schools to reopen.
The “CDC, to me, appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration,” Alexander’s email said, adding that the “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.” Of course, anyone who has followed the news knows that multiple schools across many states were forced to close after reinstating in-person learning exactly because the virus spread among students.
On Saturday, Emory University School of Medicine Professor Carlos del Rio, responded to the report in an interview with CNN, calling it “incredibly concerning.” He also spoke about the importance of the MMWR to the scientific community worldwide.
del Rio concluded by saying that although he will continue to look to the reports for information, he will “start reading with it with a degree of skepticism.”