CDC Director: Agency Was ‘Muzzled’ Under Trump

CDC Director: Agency Was ‘Muzzled’ Under Trump

Jack Brewster

Updated Jan 24, 2021, 02:06pm EST


 In a television interview Sunday, President Joe Biden’s new CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, accused the Trump administration of silencing the agency as it looked to downplay the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, echoing sentiments Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed last week. 


“I would say that the people of the CDC … have been muzzled [and] the science has not always been followed,” Walensky told Fox News Sunday.  

Walensky took over for Dr. Robert Redfield last week, inheriting an agency that has been heavily criticized for its response to the crisis under former President Donald Trump.

Last week, Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts, ripped into Trump for not listening more to the science, arguing his administration’s response likely cost lives: “Facts that were very, very clear … were questioned,” Fauci told CNN on Friday. 

Redfield, who has sidestepped criticism of the agency and Trump, acknowledged there was a “lack of consistency of public health messaging” from “civic leaders” during the pandemic in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday.


From the onset of the pandemic, the relationship frayed between the CDC and the Trump administration. In February, as Trump sought to temper concerns about the disease, high-ranking CDC official Nancy Messonnier enraged the former president when she warned in a press conference the virus’ “disruption to everyday life might be severe,” sending markets into a nosedive. The CDC also caught flack for its botched testing rollout during the beginning months of the pandemic. In May, officials inside the CDC told CNN they were being “muzzled” and that science was taking a backseat to political goals. “The message we received in previous administrations was, you guys are the scientists,” one employee told CNN then. “That’s not the case this time. If the science that we are offering up contradicts a specific policy goal, then we are the problem.” In September, Michael Caputo, former assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, apologized to agency staff after he reportedly interfered with CDC reports on the severity of Covid-19 and accused the CDC of harboring a “resistance unit” opposed to Trump.


The Trump administration held zero White House coronavirus task force briefings between July and November, even as the pandemic continued to rage within the U.S. 


“You’re going to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again,” Biden said during a press conference last week, noting he planned to elevate the disease expert in the new administration. During the summer, as Trump pivoted his focus to the election, he didn’t speak to Fauci for months.  


Just days into his term, Biden has been pressed hard on his administration’s plan to distribute the vaccine. Administration officials have promised 100 million doses will be administered within the first 100 days, but have not expanded further on when every American can expect to be vaccinated. “We don’t have as many doses as we would like now for states like New York for other states that are claiming to have run out of vaccine,” Walensky said Sunday.  


Trump consistently criticized Fauci and other health officials as he faced scrutiny for the pandemic and its staggering death count, which surpassed 400,000 last week. In October, Trump called Fauci a “disaster” and said he would have fired him if not for the negative response the move would get from the press.


‘We’ve been muzzled’: CDC sources say White House putting politics ahead of science (CNN)

Fauci: Trump’s Covid-19 Response ‘Very Likely Did’ Cost Lives (Forbes)

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I cover national politics for Forbes. Previously, I’ve written for TIME, Newsweek, the New York Daily News and VICE News. I also launched my own startup, Newsreel, a

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