A health official has been orchestrating an operation to pressurize experts and other officers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make changes in the agency's reports on Coronavirus to reflect well on U.S. President Donald Trump, said a report. The official is none other than Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign veteran who was appointed as Health and Human Services official with no medical or scientific background in April 2020.
As reported by Politico, some of the emails from the Health Department's communication team to Robert Redfield, the director of CDC, and other senior officers complained that the reports by the federal agency would undermine Trump's optimistic message about the Coronavirus pandemic.
It was also reported that one of those emails said, "CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration", a senior adviser to Caputo, Paul Alexander wrote. He called on Redfield to modify already published reports that Alexander claimed wrongly inflated the COVID-19 risks to children and undermined the push from the White House to reopen schools in the U.S.
Caputo was appointed as the assistant secretary of HHS for public affairs. According to Politico's report, the former Trump campaign official runs a team of communication aides who have been seeking the right to review and make changes to the CDC reports. When asked about Caputo's pressure tactics by the news organization, he cited defense against an imagined "deep state" as motivation.
He said, "Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic—not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC."
The Pandemic and Trump
The recently published report follows the revelation of Trump's admission to Bob Woodward, a Washington Post journalist, widely known for reporting on the famous Watergate Scandal—that he has intentionally lied to the public about the threat of novel Coronavirus by underplaying the severity of the global health crisis.
He told Woodward that he knew Coronavirus was "deadly stuff," while telling the Americans that it would disappear. Trump also told Woodward during an interview for the journalist's upcoming book called Rage, "I wanted to always play it down."
As per Politico, while the CDC has tried to protect the integrity of the agency's report, recently they have "increasingly agreed" to allow Caputo and his team to review the scientific reports. In some cases, "compromised on the wording," said the news report, citing three sources who had knowledge about the issue.
The team and Caputo himself have also attempted to delay and stop the release of other CDC reports, including a negative finding on hydroxychloroquine—a drug that was promoted by Trump on several occasions as a cure for COVID-19.
The report also added that Alexander called on Caputo to change the CDC's warning of COVID-19 spread among children. In an email, it was written, "CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening ... Very misleading by CDC and shame on them." He also reportedly tried to "muzzle" Dr. Anthony Fauci, immunologist and the director of NIAID, from talking about the Coronavirus threat to children.
As per Politico's report, the targets are CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which are authored by career scientists. These scientific reports are intended to be completely fact-based weekly assessments of COVID-19 to inform physicians, researchers, hospitals, and the public about how the virus is spreading and who is at the risk.