The president’s political aides have successfully asked to review and, in some cases, modify the weekly reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the coronavirus to better align scientific reports with Trump’s optimistic messages, according to Politico.
Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official who became a spokesperson at the Department of Health and Human Services this spring, and his team spearheaded efforts to review the CDC’s weekly morbidity and mortality reports, reported. newspaper, citing three sources familiar with the situation and e-mail exchanges. The reports are written by scientists to update the public health community on the spread of the coronavirus.
Although CDC health professionals have resisted the most radical changes, they have allowed more and more report reviews and, in some cases, changes and delays. Emails obtained by Politico show that the HHS political communications team feared the CDC was “writing hit pieces about the administration”
The CDC did not immediately respond on Saturday to a request for comment from Fox News.
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Caputo and collaborators called for retroactively changing agency reports that said the incorrectly inflated coronavirus risk for children and undermined Trump’s drive to reopen schools.
They tried to stop the release of some CDC reports altogether and successfully delayed a report on hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug touted by Trump for treating COVID-19 despite questionable evidence.
A political appointee, Paul Alexander, asked the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, to allow him to change reports and in the meantime wanted “an immediate stop”.
“The reports have to be read by someone outside the CDC like me, and we can’t allow the report to continue as it has been, because it’s outrageous. It’s madness,” Alexander, Caputo’s science advisor, told Redfield and CEO. other officials in an email obtained from Politico. “Nothing to get out of unless I read and agree with the results on how the CDC wrote it and edit it to make sure it’s fair, balanced and ‘complete’.”
Caputo responded to Fox News’ request to comment on the Politico report by saying, “It’s accurate.”
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In a statement to Politico, Caputo touted Alexander’s qualifications as “an Oxford-educated epidemiologist.” The HHS team was properly reviewing CDC reports and fighting the “deep state,” he said.
“Dr. Alexander advises me on pandemic policy and has been encouraged to share his views with other scientists. Like all scientists, his advice is listened to and accepted or rejected by his colleagues,” Caputo said in a statement.
“Our intention is to make sure that the evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic, not further grounds for deep state in the bowels of the CDC,” added Caputo.
The report sent new shockwaves across democratic and scientific circles, with some calling for Caputo’s ouster.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Said on Saturday that “political appointees seeking to interfere in the COVID-19 response and suppress public health officials should be removed from their posts. Immediately.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., Denounced the “doctorate of CDC reports” on the virus and said the GOP “is not fit to govern and poses a threat to your life.”
HHS released a new statement Saturday that it did not address the interference report with CDC reports, but praised Trump’s openness to science.
“As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I informed President Trump along with the best doctors in the nation and insisted that he had direct access to these doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in the statement to Fox News. “He has always been receptive to the data and science presented by me and other members of the task force. President Trump’s science-based decision making saved lives.”
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Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has pounced on the new report as further evidence that the Trump administration will seek to downplay the pandemic for political reasons. He also cited revelations from Bob Woodward’s new book that Trump knew how deadly the virus was in February, but did not stress its severity to the public at the time.
“When Donald Trump told Bob Woodward he wanted to downplay the virus, this is the exact kind of loathsome betrayal he meant,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign director and director of communications, said in a statement. “Instead of telling us the truth about the deadly severity of COVID-19, this report is further proof that the Trump administration has systematically put political focus on the security of the American people.”
But the Trump campaign said the country would have been worse off had Biden been president at the start of the pandemic and touted Trump’s decision to announce travel restrictions from China as early as January 31.
“President Trump has always listened to scientists and medical professionals, such as Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield, in creating his unprecedented response to the coronavirus,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Fox News.
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He added: “Doctors have publicly stated many times that the president listens to their advice and that they have not felt political pressure. The administration intervened in January while the Democrats were still pursuing their mock impeachment, first with travel warnings and CDC screening at major US airports, and then with the president’s travel restrictions in China, which saved thousands of American lives. “