- A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote a letter to the current director on September 23 asking him to take stand against President Donald Trump’s administration.
- In the letter, Dr. William Foege called on Dr. Robert Redfield to take a stance against the White House’s meddling at the CDC and face the risk of being fired for doing so.
- Foege said this was necessary to restore the CDC’s reputation, which he said the White House had turned “from gold to tarnished brass.”
- During the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has been placed under immense political pressure from the White House, which has largely sought to downplay the virus.
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Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was sent a letter two weeks ago from one of his predecessors urging him to take a stance against the White House’s meddling at the agency and face the likelihood that he would be fired by doing so.
USA Today on Tuesday published a copy of Dr. William Foege’s September 23 letter, which argued that the White House’s interference in the CDC’s efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak had turned the agency’s reputation “from gold to tarnished brass.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has been placed under immense political pressure from the White House, which has largely sought to downplay the virus. Examples include:
In an interview with USA Today, Foege said what pushed him to reach out to Redfield was hearing that President Donald Trump had hired Dr. Scott Atlas — a health-policy expert who has been outspoken against lockdowns — to join the coronavirus task force.
Last month Redfield was overheard saying that “everything” Atlas “is false.” In an interview with Business Insider this week, Atlas called some of Redfield’s statements “way off base and absurd and harmful to the public.”
In the letter, Foege said Redfield should explain ways the administration had botched the coronavirus response and admit to any of his failures as CDC director. The US has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.
“You could upfront, acknowledge the tragedy of responding poorly, apologize for what has happened and your role in acquiescing,” Foege wrote. “Don’t shy away from the fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our country. It is a slaughter and not just a political dispute.”
Foege said scientific experts had been sidelined by the White House during the pandemic, which he wrote had led to a “colossal failure of the public health system of this country.”
“The public health texts of the future will use this as a lesson on how not to handle an infectious disease pandemic,” Foege wrote.
Foege said Redfield speaking up would also help the morale of CDC workers, which Foege said had reached a new low.
“At the moment, they feel you accepted the White House orders without sufficient resistance,” he wrote. “You have a short window to change things.”
Foege added that it was inevitable that Redfield would be fired for doing this.
“When they fire you, this will be a multi-week story and you can hold your head high. That will take exceptional courage on your part,” Foege wrote. “I can’t tell you what to do except to revisit your religious beliefs and ask yourself what is right.”
Business Insider reached out to a representative of Redfield for comment but did not immediately receive a response on Wednesday.