Ways and Means Chairman Demands Answers on Editorial Process for COVID Reports
WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday demanded Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar shed light on how his department has handled coronavirus-related reports.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., sent a strongly worded letter to Azar following reports the department “improperly interfered” with reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In recent days several news organizations have followed Politico’s lead in reporting that appointees of President Trump at HHS altered coronavirus-related reports so they would be more politically beneficial to the president.
HHS communications aides, led by Trump-appointed spokesman Michael Caputo — a former Roger Stone associate with no medical or scientific background — reportedly demanded the right to review and change weekly scientific reports from the Centers for Disease Control.
At times, the reports states, Caputo and others complained the reports would undermine President Trump’s rosy public pronouncements about the coronavirus.
In his letter, Neal said he wants to see detailed information on relevant publication processes and also wants to know what, if any, directive HHS received from the White House.
In addition, he wants the names and titles of any HHS political appointees involved in the publication of the reports in question and their contributions during the editorial process.
“As the nation continues to grapple with the devastating consequences of this pandemic, any administration action to manipulate or suppress critical public health information is unconscionable, as it has the potential to increase the risk of COVID-19-related harm,” Neal wrote.
“As you know, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series has long served as a critical tool to inform state and local public health officials, health care providers, researchers, and the general public about infectious diseases and other ongoing public health developments —regardless of the political party of the administration in charge,” the chairman said.
Neal said he is “deeply troubled” by the reports and noted that “being a source of objective, life-saving scientific data … should continue to be a source of pride for the CDC.”
“Unfortunately, these reported actions fit within a troubling pattern of poor judgment this administration continues to exercise in responding to this pandemic, including tailoring the facts to fit a desired narrative and playing down the severity of the risks of COVID-19 to various populations,” the chairman said.
Neal gave Azar until Sept. 22 to provide the requested information.
In The News
WILMINGTON, Del. - President-elect Joe Biden has selected top aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin to serve in key roles on his White House legislative affairs team. Shuwanza Goff, who has been serving as Majority Leader Hoyer's floor director... Read More
WASHINGTON - Bathed in chill sunlight and standing just yards from where work crews continue to build the platform for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, the Capitol Christmas tree was already a destination in its own right Monday as a handful ofl families gravitated to... Read More
WASHINGTON -- Defense analysts warned Congress Friday against the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan announced this week amid indications that radical Islamists could resume terrorist attacks. They said further proof is needed that Taliban fighters would not try to seize control of Afghanistan before the Trump... Read More
WASHINGTON - During a week when newly elected members of Congress were all over Capitol Hill for their formal orientation, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., remembered how vastly different her experience was in 2012. Jay Inslee, the previous representative of Washington State's 1st Congressional District, had decided... Read More
WASHINGTON – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Material conducted a hearing Wednesday exploring the Surface Transportation Board’s part in developments to the country’s passenger rail system. During the hearing, executive officials from Metra, Amtrak and the STB gave expert testimony... Read More
WASHINGTON — Front-line workers on Capitol Hill are continuing to contract COVID-19. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, 153 legislative branch employees have tested positive or are presumed positive for COVID-19, according to a Democratic aide for the House Administration Committee. This cumulative total, as of Nov. 18, includes 59... Read More