A political appointee of President Trump interfered with the COVID-19 reports of health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because their data does not match the “optimistic messages” sought by the White House.
In one case, CDC director Robert Redfield and his scientists were accused of attempting to “hurt the president” with their reports on COVID-19, according to POLITICO.
The reported interference was learned the day after it was revealed that Trump’s own group of loyalists were trying to gag Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost expert on infectious diseases.
Since he was appointed spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, a Republican Party operative and former Trump campaign official, and his staff have lobbied CDC staff to alter the wording of its Weekly Report on the morbidity and mortality.
Michael Caputo (left), who was appointed by President Trump as principal spokesperson at the Department of Health and Human Services last April, would have asked that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield (right ) and his staff to modify their scientific reports to be in line with the White House’s “optimistic” message
Since he was appointed spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Caputo, a Republican Party operative and former Trump campaign official, and his staff have lobbied CDC staff to change the wording of its Weekly Morbidity Report. and mortality (above)
The report has usually been released without any political interference and is a key method by which the CDC advises doctors and the general public on COVID-19.
Caputo, who has no medical or health experience, was appointed to the spokesperson position in April.
Since then, he and his team have tried to stop the CDC from releasing some of its findings that are not in line with Trump’s messages, POLITICO reports.
Reportedly, Caputo and his staff tried to retroactively change the agency’s reports which, they said, increased the risks of COVID-19.
According to POLITICO, political appointees would have tried to clarify in reports that the American who was infected with the virus did so because of his own behavior.
Another report that Caputo and his team opposed addressed the CDC’s findings on how doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug Trump advertised as a treatment for COVID-19.
A prominent aide to Caputo reportedly tried to gag Dr. Anthony Fauci (pictured), the nation’s leading infectious disease expert
Medical professionals have stated that there is no therapeutic benefit to using the drug to treat COVID-19.
According to POLITICO, Caputo and his staff delayed the CDC report by a month while questioning the authors’ political motives.
The report, released last week, stated that “the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh the risks.”
POLITICO cited an August 8 email in which a Caputo aide criticized Redfield and other CDC officials for using the agency’s reports to “hurt the president.”
“The CDC seems to me to be writing hit pieces about administration,” wrote Paul Alexander, a political candidate.
Alexander asked Redfield to re-edit two published reports that he said overestimated the risks of COVID-19 to children.
Alexander also accused Redfield and the agency of undermining the president’s efforts to reopen schools.
Alexander wrote, “The CDC tried to report as if once the children got together, it would spread and this would impact the reopening of the school… Very misleading on the part of the CDC and shame on them. their goal is clear. “
He asked Redfield to stop all future MMWR reports until the CDC changed its long-standing publication process and allowed Alexander to personally review the entire report before it was published.
Alexander also requested that the CDC allow him to make changes to the line. He also wanted the agency to make an “immediate shutdown” on the reports.
Caputo recruited Alexander, an assistant health research professor at McMaster University in Toronto, last spring as his scientific advisor.
“The reports must 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,” Alexander told Redfield.
Paul Alexander, who is a senior adviser to Trump-appointed HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo, asked Fauci to avoid claiming that children wear masks.
‘Nothing to do if I don’t read and agree with the results on how CDC wrote it and edit it to make sure it’s fair, balanced and “complete”. “
Although CDC officials have repelled the invasion of Caputo in their work, they recently allowed his team to review the reports prior to their publication.
Caputo defended his team’s actions in seeking changes to the CDC reports, telling POLITICO that Alexander is “an Oxford-educated epidemiologist” who specializes in “analyzing the work of other scientists.”
‘Dr. Alexander advised me on pandemic policy and was encouraged to share his views with other scientists, “Caputo told POLITICO.
‘Like all scientists, his advice is heeded and accepted or rejected by his colleagues.’
Caputo said it was appropriate for his department, HHS, to review the CDC reports.
“Our intention is to make sure that evidence-based, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic – not further grounds for deep state in the bowels of the CDC,” he said.
Alexander is the same HHS official who has reportedly worked to stop Fauci from speaking publicly about the risks of COVID-19 in children.
Emails obtained by Politico show that Alexander tried to educate Fauci’s staff on what he should say during media interviews.
Alexander asked until last Tuesday that Fauci refrain from claiming that children wore masks.
“You can make sure Dr. Fauci indicates the masks are for teachers in schools. Not for the kids, ”Alexander wrote in an email to Fauci’s spokesperson prior to an interview with MSNBC.
‘There is no data, none, zero, anywhere in the world, showing that children, especially young children, are spreading this virus to other children, or to adults or their teachers. None. And if it did, the risk is essentially zero. ‘
In an August 27 email, Alexander wrote that he “vehemently” disagreed with the infectious disease expert.
That email was in response to a press office summary of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of what Fauci intended to tell a Bloomberg reporter.
‘I continue to have problems with children being tested over and over and even college students widely … and I disagree with Dr. Fauci on that. With vehemence, “he wrote.
Some emails show that Fauci’s aides rejected Alexander’s requests.
An institute scientist wrote to Alexander in late August, saying he disagreed with his suggestion that COVID-19 posed “zero” risk to children.
“I am an infectious disease physician on Dr Fauci’s staff,” Andrea Lerner, a medical officer in the director’s office, wrote in the email.
“While the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 involving children are not fully understood, potentially complex, and likely differ between age groups, I do not think it is correct to state that” there is no evidence, zero, that children do spread. this virus to children in schools or to adults “. Or who,” They bring the flu home but they don’t bring COVID home. ”
He cited four different studies, including a CDC report on an outbreak at a Georgia summer camp that said 44 percent of children and young adults tested positive in June.
Alexander replies that it would be “traumatic” for children to have to wear masks.
He also attached a number of studies which he said showed there was “little, if any, evidence” that children are at risk.
Fauci, who has been the institute’s director since 1984, denied the suggestion that he was muzzled.
He said he didn’t see the emails and that no one on his staff advised him what to say.
“I would never be muzzled on anything when it comes to science, evidence and facts,” Fauci told Fox News.
In a statement, Caputo – who is Alexander’s superior – said the official specialized in analyzing the work of other scientists.
“Dr. Alexander advised me on pandemic policy and was encouraged to share his views with other scientists,” Caputo said.
‘Like all scientists, his advice is heeded and accepted or rejected by his colleagues. I hired Dr. Alexander for his experience and not simply to resonate the opinions of others. ”
Fauci has at times been at odds with the Trump administration during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci said Friday he disagreed with Trump’s assessment that the US has “ turned the corner ” on the coronavirus pandemic, saying the statistics are disturbing.
Fauci, the outspoken director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the United States is starting the flu season with a high base of about 40,000 new cases per day and deaths averaging about 1,000 per day.
Trump, who has admitted downplaying the severity of the virus since it surfaced earlier this year’s presidential election, said Thursday he believed the US was “ turning the corner ” on the crisis.
“I disagree with that, because, if you look at the thing you just mentioned, the stats … are disturbing,” Fauci said on MSNBC. ‘We are hitting a plateau of around 40,000 cases per day. And the dead are about a thousand.
Fauci said he hopes the country hasn’t seen a spike in cases after Labor Day weekend as it has after other long holiday weekends since May.
It was important to reduce infection rates before the fall and winter seasons, when people will be spending more time indoors. “You don’t want to start with such a high baseline already,” Fauci said.
Dr Fauci says the US won’t return to normal until late 2021, when a successful COVID-19 vaccine could be widely distributed
Fauci told NBC News’s Andrea Mitchel he is confident a vaccine will be available by the end of this year or early 2021.
Asked about the open-air campaign demonstrations that Trump reprized prior to his November 3 meeting against Democrat Joe Biden, Fauci said they are “absolutely” risky.
Fauci has already warned that some schools in some areas should be more cautious about reopening amid the pandemic.
Fauci said schools in regions with low infections, which would be considered “green zones”, would have no problem reopening.
“If you’re in a yellow zone, it’s more of a risk, so you might want to change your schedule,” he said.
“If you are in a red zone, there is a high degree of viral activity, I think you should think twice before getting the kids to go back to school.”
It came after it emerged Wednesday that Fauci had criticized Trump as “rudderless” in dealing with the pandemic, according to Bob Woodward’s new bombshell book.
He made the comment to an associate, Woodward says.
Trump’s “attention span is like a negative number,” says Woodward quoting Fauci.
“His sole purpose is to be re-elected,” according to the book, which reports Fauci told other players that Trump “is on a separate channel” and has not focused on meetings.
The publication of the book’s excerpts came one day when Fauci said he was “ frustrated ” by large political gatherings where many people don’t wear masks, even though he tried once again to moderate what might appear to be public criticism. to Trump.
Fauci called on public officials to “lead by example” after a Trump rally in North Carolina attended by thousands.
Fauci, who for months has been trying to balance his desire to share public health warnings without making headlines that put him at odds with Trump, was asked on CBS This Morning if it was frustrating for him as an expert to see big rallies. contingents of people unmasked.
“The president continues to hold these massive demonstrations where people don’t wear masks, including the president himself,” interviewer Gayle King asked Fauci.
“Well, yes, it is. I’ve said it often, ”said Fauci.
‘This situation is that we want to lead by example. Because we know that when you do four or five typical types of public health measures: mask, physical distance, avoid crowds, make sure you do most things outdoors instead of indoors, “he continued.
‘This is the kind of thing that revolves around spikes and also keeps us from experiencing spikes. So I certainly would love to see universal masks wear, “he said.