Sep 15, 2020 - Health

Reports suggest politicization of Trump coronavirus response

Trump.
President Trump speaks at a press conference, surrounded by administration officials. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A slew of recent reporting suggests deep politicization of the Trump administration's coronavirus response.

Driving the news: The New York Times reported yesterday that Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo on Facebook accused career government scientists of "sedition" and said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a “resistance unit” that's trying to undermine Trump.

Politico first reported that Caputo and his team demanded to review the CDC's weekly scientific reports on the pandemic, sometimes complaining that the reports undermined Trump's optimistic messaging.

  • P0litico also recently reported that one of Caputo's teammates, Paul Alexander, has tried to weigh in on what Anthony Fauci, the government's top disease expert, should say in media interviews — often advising responses that contradict mainstream science.

Scott Atlas, a top medical adviser to Trump, has pushed a "herd immunity" response to the pandemic, WaPo reported, and has argued that the science of masks is unclear and that children can't spread the virus, per NYT.

  • In a tweet, Atlas said he "*never* advised the President to pursue a strategy of achieving herd immunity by allowing SARS2 to spread throughout the country."

The other side: HHS pointed to a tweet by Secretary Alex Azar that said the vaccine process "is driven completely by science and the data. The data will be reviewed by an independent board even before it is submitted to the [FDA]."

  • In response to the articles above, HHS repeatedly said it supports its personnel. Atlas has denied advocating for a herd immunity strategy.

The bottom line: It's one thing to spin things during an election year. It's another to push demonstrably false information that impacts the response to a once-in-a-generation pandemic.

Go deeper: Melinda Gates slams Trump's COVID-19 response

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