The Centers For Disease Control has long had a reputation for being the premier public health institution in the world. But in the time of Trump, the agency has found its scientists pushed aside. In the beginning of the pandemic, it was a batch of bad coronavirus tests that put the agency in a bad light. But lately, the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, has all but disappeared from TV. And now, as the election nears, politics is replacing science altogether. A report from the Associated Press that found that “Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television.”
The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy. A leaked recording of the hourlong call was provided to The Associated Press by the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group.
The AP says Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, confirmed “an effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is underway.”
The doctors are being recruited to discuss a Trump talking point – reviving the US economy without waiting to meet CDC guidelines.
What’s odd is that Redfield is a Trump appointee who has praised the president in the past. But after an April warning that “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.” Trump quickly tweeted that the “CDC Director was totally misquoted by Fake News.” But Redfield later said he was “accurately quoted.” Soon after that, we learned that the CDC was ready to publish comprehensive guidelines on reopening America. But that plan was shelved by the White House. Agency scientists told the AP the guidance “would never see the light of day.” Instead this week a less specific, watered-down version was put on the CDC website. NBC calls the new version “much sparer and looser,” and “oddly repetitive.”
As for the future of the CDC and its director, The Hill writes:
“Officials familiar with the matter say Redfield lacks White House allies but cautioned that it’s unlikely he will resign or be pushed out in the immediate future. Still, they worried about the long-term damage the pandemic response could do to the CDC’s reputation.
“I always turn to CDC guidance on any major public health issue, and I don’t anymore with COVID,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of public health at Georgetown University. “CDC is just not a player right now. I’ve never seen that before.”
But there are still plenty of people at the CDC who care greatly about the important work the agency is doing and some are starting to speak out.
CNN spoke with several mid-and-high ranking staffers at the CDC. One told the outlet “We’ve been muzzled… What’s tough is that if we would have acted earlier on what we knew and recommended, we would have saved lives and money.”