During Trump's Wednesday press conference he said a vaccine would be developed "fairly rapidly." Then Dr. Anthony Fauci went to the podium and said we are moving fast, but it will still take a year to a year and a half for a working vaccine.
I watched Trump's eyes narrow as he figured out that Dr. Fauci had just contradicted him. It doesn't matter that Dr. Fauci is one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. What mattered to Trump was it looked like he wasn't in control.
With this White House it's not about trying to figure out best how to stop the spread of the virus. It's about how to stop the spread of "disloyalty" among people who work for Trump.
The next day in the New York Times we see how Trump punishes disloyalty, he told Pence to control the scientists and the message about the virus.
"Dr. Fauci has told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance."
Watch the video where Trump says the vaccine is coming along well and that it's being developed very rapidly. Dr. Fauci explained that although the vaccine development is faster than ever before at the NIH, for them the term 'rapidly' means a year to a year and a half.
On Saturday's press conference Trump REPEATED his comment that the vaccine will be developed fairly rapidly. This time, although Dr. Fauci said that he was not muzzled, he did NOT correct the President's time frame on the vaccine development.
When I saw Trump's reaction and the move made by Pence the next day to muzzle Dr. Fauci I instantly thought of my favorite scene from HBO's Chernobyl. In it a scientist goes to a bureaucrat to warn him of the seriousness of the disaster and urges him to have the city evacuated.
Scientist: If you don't immediately issue iodine tablets and then evacuate this city, hundreds of thousands of people are going to get cancer, and God knows how many more will die.
Bureaucrat: I've been assured there is no problem.
Scientist: I'm telling you that there is.
Bureaucrat: I prefer my opinion to yours.
Scientist: I'm a nuclear physicist. Before you were Deputy Secretary, you worked in a shoe factory.
Bureaucrat Yes, I worked in a shoe factory. And now I'm in charge. [raises glass in a toast] "To the workers of the world."
Dr. Fauci is one of the country’s leading experts on viruses. He told the truth that we all need to hear. But he's not talking because Trump retaliates against people who contradict him.
I just saw Dr. Fauci on Hardball, but according to Rep. John Garamendi, Dr. Fauci was told to cancel five Sunday talk show appearances.
Pence takes over #coronavirus messaging from health officials. Dr. Fauci was, told to cancel five Sunday talk show appearances, according to Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat who represents the district in California where the first “community spread” is believed to have happened.
— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) February 28, 2020
If you haven't seen the Chernobyl miniseries yet I highly recommend it. You should also listen to the podcast with the author Craig Mazin. In the podcast he talks about the central theme of the show, the cost of lies. Mazin says we can get away with a lie for a very long time, but the truth just doesn’t care.
The show documents the technical reasons for the Chernobyl disaster. But it also shows how lying and covering up the truth cost lives.
At the beginning of the disaster there was a lack of accurate information. But when the information was finally available people were afraid to communicate the truth. They downplayed the size and scope of the disaster. Because of this the response was delayed. Appropriate protective gear wasn't available for workers. (Just like the HHS workers who processed the coronavirus evacuees )
The stories of the various workers who went in to stop a larger disaster and clean up the radioactive debris are heroic. The ones who knew it was a death sentence and went in anyway because they knew they were saving lives, were especially heart breaking. But others got cancer and died because officials muzzled the people who knew the truth.
The scientists that wanted to tell the public the truth were followed by the KGB. The lead scientist, Valery Legasov, claimed political pressure censored the mention of Soviet nuclear secrecy in his report to the IAEA, a secrecy which forbade even plant operators having knowledge of previous accidents and known problems with reactor design. In the series he smuggled the real story out of Russia before his suicide.
The last part of the clip from Chernobyl also struck me. The scientist is told by the bureaucrat that he's not going to do anything. She leaves his office but before she goes she tells the secretary about the disaster, tells her to leave the city and to take the iodine pills she gives her. The message is, "Your boss is an incompetent idiot, so we'll have to work around him to save lives."
How many will die until Trump and his protectors in the GOP are forced out?