It’s as bad as we thought at the CDC. From Politico:
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports are authored by career scientists and serve 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. Such reports have historically been published with little fanfare and no political interference, said several longtime health department officials, and have been viewed as a cornerstone of the nation’s public health work for decades.
But since Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the health department’s new spokesperson, 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.
Caputo and his team have attempted to add caveats to the CDC’s findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior, according to the individuals familiar with the situation and emails reviewed by POLITICO.
Caputo’s team also has tried to halt the release of some CDC reports, including delaying a report that addressed how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug favored by Trump as a coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence. The report, which was held for about a month after Caputo’s team raised questions about its authors’ political leanings, was finally published last week. It said that “the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh their risks.”
It’s entirely possible that people DIED because Caputo was worried that the CDC guidance would hurt Trump’s feelings and delayed its release for weeks. This is intolerable. It’s also the tip of the iceberg. Politico had a similar story about HHS and the same cast of characters trying to muzzle Dr. Fauci earlier this week:
A Trump administration appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to prevent Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, from speaking about the risks that coronavirus poses to children.
Emails obtained by POLITICO show Paul Alexander — a senior adviser to Michael Caputo, HHS’s assistant secretary for public affairs — instructing press officers and others at the National Institutes of Health about what Fauci should say during media interviews. The Trump adviser weighed in on Fauci’s planned responses to outlets including Bloomberg News, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and the science journal Cell.
Alexander’s lengthy messages, some sent as recently as this week, are couched as scientific arguments. But they often contradict mainstream science while promoting political positions taken by the Trump administration on hot-button issues ranging from the use of convalescent plasma to school reopening.
The emails add to evidence that the White House, and Trump appointees within HHS, are pushing health agencies to promote a political message instead of a scientific one.
This Alexander person is an epidemiologist, but recall that tobacco companies and the oil industry were able to find trained scientists to lie about the health effects of smoking and raise doubt about climate change. The point is, political hacks are fucking with public health.
We can’t go on this way. It won’t be enough to have intervals of sane presidents to clean up after Republican vandals, because the vandalism will escalate. Even if Biden wins, we’ll be four to eight years from the prospect of President Cue-a-Nun* Nutball.
What to do? Take the CDC out of executive branch oversight? But what about the DoJ? It’s just as politicized. Thanks to Mitch McConnell, the current SCOTUS is as political as the US Senate.
Broken norms and traditions won’t be resurrected by a transient Democratic hold on power, when we’re always just one election away from being ruled by another amoral, corrupt and possibly insane Republican demagogue. It’s like being handcuffed to a lunatic.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope someone is thinking about ways to toddler-proof the federal government. Open thread.
*Stolen from a Twitter friend and used to avoid attracting psychotic people to the blog.