‘What’s not legitimate is to overrule science,’ said former CDC chief of staff Kyle McGowan in a recent New York Times report
Former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Kyle McGowan, and his deputy Amanda Campbell, provided details about the Trump administration’s manipulation at the agency during the coronavirus pandemic.
McGowan and Campbell, who were both appointed by Trump in 2018, became disillusioned after witnessing The White House’s constant dismissal of science and changing of the CDC’s messaging, reports the New York Times.
According to the Times, The White House was insistent on reviewing and even changing coronavirus guideline documents.
McGowan and Campbell mediated between CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield and White House budget director Russell T. Vought with The White House’s guidance requests, edits, and recommendations. Former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway provided edits on choirs and communion in the faith communities while and Ivanka Trump gave suggestions regarding schools.
“Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,” McGowan said.
McGowan recalls the administration’s fixation on the economic implications of public health with Vought often arguing that recommendations of social distancing guidelines of six feet or greater were too burdensome to be enforced by businesses.
“It is not the C.D.C.’s role to determine the economic viability of a guidance document,” McGowan said.
“It wasn’t until something was in the M.M.W.R. that was in contradiction to what message the White House and H.H.S. were trying to put forward that they became scrutinized,” Campbell said.
Campbell at the time of the pandemic was confident in the group of scientists she believes are the best but said that politics made a negative impact.
“What was so different, though, was the political involvement, not only from H.H.S. but then the White House, ultimately, that in so many ways hampered what our scientists were able to do,” she said.
CDC official Dr. Charlotte Kent, editor of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said she was ordered to destroy an email that revealed a Trump appointee was interfering and called the request “very unusual.” Upon complying with the direction, she noticed that the email was already deleted but it wasn’t clear who did.
In February, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CFC, warned the American public during a press conference that life would change.
“The disruption to everyday life might be severe,” she said at the time, also noting the pandemic’s “significant disruption to our lives.” The press conference angered Trump as he countered her claims saying, “It’s all going to work out. Everybody has to be calm.”
McGowan agreed with Messonnier’s past statement, saying, “There’s not a single thing that she said that didn’t come true. “Is it more important to have her telling the world and the American public what to be prepared for, or is it just to say, ‘All is well?’”
He did recognize that the damage done to the CDC this year will “take years to undo.”
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