Amid times of the pandemic, we look up to our leaders to provide us with the care and support we need in order to sustain our lives.
Leaders like virologist Dr. Richard Bright, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the main doctor leading the Government to push for a vaccine. Recently, however, Dr. Richard Bright filed a whistleblower complaint that claims that the Trump administration ignored his early warnings about the seriousness of the Coronavirus, has been engaging in cronyism in its coronavirus response and that Bright was fired in retaliation for his criticism of touting hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment. On May 14th, he testified in front of Congress, where he warned that without a proper federal response (a coordinated, centralized plan) we are looking at a resurgence that could rival the devastation of the 1918 Spanish Flu. In his own words, he warns that we are potentially looking at one of the “darkest winters” of history.
Bright’s testimony sharply undercuts the messaging from the Trump administration, which has recently punted Coronavirus response to the states and has largely focused on the importance of re-opening the states. While those on the Right, along with President Trump, claim that it is safe to reopen regardless of what will occur during this winter, experts such as Dr. Bright are pushing for a better approach to handle the pandemic. He criticized the Trump administration directly and called for a centralized point of leadership to end the pandemic. His warnings were chilling: without such a plan and leadership, we are going to be headed into one of the darkest winters of modern history. The country has already suffered over 100,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 and can not afford another outbreak wave at the end of this year. Dr. Bright also claims that the Trump administration is politicizing the pandemic and is guided by politicians and associates rather than science and experts in making decisions.
For example, Bright claims that the Department of Health and Human Services reassigned his position after he publicly resisted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a safe treatment against COVID-19. According to ProPublica, the administration was pushing for drugs that were similar in chemical composition to other drugs that had toxic effects on animals. Effects such animals giving birth to offspring that were “born without teeth and without parts of their skulls.”
Ultimately, Dr. Bright’s whistleblower complaint sheds light on the downfalls on the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic and his overall presidency. Trump continuously acts in ways that aim to discredit science experts and to urge the public to believe every claim he makes. He exhibited this behavior before during Hurricane Dorian, when he contradicted the National Weather Service’s experts by displaying an altered map of the hurricane. Similarly he is downplaying the advice of experts like Dr. Bright to bolster his claim that it is safe to reopen the economy.
However, Trump’s supportrs claim that Bright’s actions are those of a disgruntled employee, influenced by partisan lawyers. The HHS has pushed hard against his warnings and conclusions and his contentions. On top of this, the HHS uses the same line of reasoning employed by Dr. Bright in claiming that he is politicizing the pandemic. In a statement issued after Bright’s congressional testimony, the HHS stated: “Rick Bright was transferred from his role as BARDA director to lead a bold new $1 billion testing program at NIH, critical to saving lives and reopening America. Mr. Bright has not yet shown up for work, but continues to collect his $285,010 salary, while using his taxpayer-funded medical leave to work with partisan attorneys who are politicizing the response to COVID-19”. In a tweet, the President claimed Dr. Bright “is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!”
However, Trumps detractors feel that Bright is merely confirming what has long been suspected: the Trump administration has bungled the coronavirus response and has let political imperatives dictate it. Trump and his allies are pushing for treatments based more on political connections than scientific merit. Dr. Bright’s reassignment after his criticism and Trump’s subsequent tweet prove that there is political tension between Dr. Bright and the administration. Thus, this tension is what fuels the administration in making decisions such as reassigning top doctors such as Dr. Bright to less impactful roles after they make remarks against what Trump praises.
Even in the face of the President’s hostility, Dr. Bright has doubled down on his claims. He responded in an official statement saying, “Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis,.” According to CNBC, bright will ask HHS’ inspector general, an internal ethics watchdog to “investigate the manner in which this administration has politicized the work of BARDA and has pressured me and other conscientious scientists to fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.”
The Trump adminstration in not showing no signs of heeding any of Dr. Brights warnings, so the country must hope that he proves to be wrong.