May 18, 2020

Days after testifying to Congress, coronavirus whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright spoke to 60 Minutes about how he was removed from the head of a federal pandemic response and vaccine development agency after he pushed for a more effective response. Bright still has a warning to sound, saying “We don't yet have a national strategy to respond fully to this pandemic. The best scientists that we have in our government who are working really hard to try to figure this out aren't getting that clear, cohesive leadership, strategic plan message yet. Until they get that, it's still gonna be chaotic.”

In response, Donald Trump showed that failure of leadership in action, rage-tweeting that Bright is “yet another Fake ‘Whistleblower’, a disgruntled employee who supports Dems, fabricates stories, & spews lies.” But it wasn’t just a personal attack. Trump took aim at the idea of accountability, continuing “This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm,” and predictably attacking the media for daring to report on his failures.

For someone who Trump claims to think is irrelevant, Bright sure does get under his skin. And he probably should. Bright’s story is damaging and totally believable. Starting in January, he has told Congress and now 60 Minutes, he was warning his fellow Health and Human Services officials that a pandemic was coming and the U.S. was unprepared. He warned specifically about personal protective equipment, and pushed for N95 mask manufacturing in the U.S. to be boosted early, in time to build a stockpile.

“Remember, the entire leadership was focused on containment,” early on, Bright said. “There was a belief that we could contain this virus and keep it out of the United States. Containment doesn't work. Containment does buy time. It could slow. It very well could slow the spread. But while you're slowing the spread, you better be doing something in parallel to be prepared for when that virus breaks out. That was my job.”

And that was the job the top people in the Trump administration weren’t interested in having done. But while pressing for greater urgency in the response got Bright sidelined from key meetings, he says it was pushing back against Trump’s hyping of hydroxychloroquine that got him removed from leadership of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and reassigned to a lesser position at the National Institutes of Health.

”I believe my last ditch effort to protect Americans from that drug was the final straw that they used and believed was essential to push me out,” Bright told Norah O’Donnell in the interview that aired Sunday. He acknowledged that he ultimately signed an emergency use authorization for the untested drug, but noted it was after he had already worked to limit the drug’s use to hospital patients, saying, “I was given a directive. I didn't have a choice, other than to leave at that time. And I went along and signed that letter knowing that we had contained access to that drug.”

Unfortunately, Trump had other plans—and continues to push the government in a series of disastrous directions.

Posted with permission from Daily Kos.

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