The virus is “deadly stuff,” but we can no longer trust the CDC, HHS, or our President to tell us the truth about it.
Remember all the way back in July, which was about thirty years ago in 2020-months, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ordered the nation’s hospitals to send their coronavirus patient data to them directly, bypassing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) who had been collecting the information all along? At the time, critics (including current and former health officials) worried that the Trump administration wanted to become the sole gatekeeper for virus data because they intended to misrepresent and repackage deadly stuff as pure fluffy happytalk, but Caputo reassured Americans that “HHS is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus.”
Ha ha, right?
As it turns out, in a situation as predictable as the eventuality of a pandemic itself, that’s exactly what happened. CDC reports have typically been produced by career scientists, and serve as a useful way to distribute health information to doctors, public health officials, researchers, and the public. Now, however, they are subject to a scandalous degree of meddling from political appointees at HHS.
Last April, the Administration installed Michael Caputo, a Republican political strategist and former adviser to Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, as assistant secretary of HHS for public affairs, the agency’s top communications position. Caputo has no scientific or medical experience, but he has a stellar record as a Trump loyalist. He has continued in this mission by doctoring CDC reports to align them more closely to the President’s happytalk or preventing them from being released at all.
Caputo’s aide, Paul Alexander, claimed that CDC reports exaggerated the risk to children, should schools reopen during the pandemic, calling the scientific reports “hit pieces on the administration.” Alexander is quoted by Politico as saying, “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. Their aim is clear.” Of course, we know what happened. Schools across the country opened and closed again, or couldn’t open safely at all, because kids actually are coronavirus spreaders, and this really is deadly stuff.
Alexander also demanded that the CDC run all of their reports by him so he could “tweak” and edit them to reflect the President’s position.
Speaking of which, what is the President’s position, anyway? It depends upon who he’s talking to. In several recorded conversations with Bob Woodward, the journalist who helped expose the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, Trump took a different angle than the one he feeds the public.
“This is deadly stuff,” Trump admitted to Woodward in early February. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed… It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Yet just a few days later, he said in a FOX interview that we were in good shape, and less than two weeks later he told reporters that “we have it very much under control in this country.” Later in February, he was calling it a the Democrats’ “new hoax.”
Because, the President said to Woodward, “I wanted to always play it down.” On March 19, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” Yes, of course, the President who talked about a caravan of Mexicans coming to rape women “at levels that nobody has ever seen before” didn’t want to create a panic. The same President that texts his supporters with alerts that Antifa will “attack their homes” if he loses the election in November, didn’t want to create a panic. Trump has pumped his base so full of fear for so many years that any claim that he was trying to calm the nation by lying to us about the pandemic is simply not credible.
The President and his administration are editing scientific reports for political gain. He is lying to the public about the severity of the pandemic to the point that his supporters are attacking store employees for daring to enforce mask requirements and endangering the country through events like the Sturgis motorcycle rally. (Even if it wasn’t a superspreader event, it certainly wasn’t wise to attend, maskless and without distancing, during a pandemic.)
Institutions we are supposed to be able to trust are no longer trustworthy. A President is supposed to step in, unite, and guide our country through our worst hours, but this one cannot be trusted to speak the truth. We cannot make good decisions with bad information. Nearly 200,000 Americans have died. This is deadly stuff.
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