Feb 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama Ebola czar rips Pence for controlling health officials' statements

Ronald Klain and OBama
Ronald Klain with President Obama in 2014. Photo: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

The Obama administration's Ebola response coordinator Ronald Klain tore into the White House Thursday over a report in the New York Times that all public statements and appearances by health officials must be coordinated with the office of Vice President Mike Pence.

What they're saying: "I was the WH Ebola Response Coordinator in 2014-15," Klain tweeted. "We never told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or National Institutes of Health what they could say, or ever censored their medical statements. If the WH is doing that now, it is a danger to public health."

  • White House officials insisted to the Times that "the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated."
  • "The vice president wants clear, open and rapid communication," a senior administration official told Axios.

The big picture: President Trump announced Wednesday that Pence will be taking the lead on the administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams were also added to the coronavirus task force on Thursday.

  • Trump has faced criticism for contradictory statements he made at his press conference Wednesday, as he sought to downplay warnings from other health officials that the spread of the virus in the United States is likely inevitable.
  • Pence's public health record while serving as governor of Indiana has also been called into question. He opposed a clean-needle exchange program amid an AIDs breakout among drug users, and he made significant cuts to Indiana's public health budget.
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