Former CDC director calls on Redfield to reveal Trump administration missteps in pandemic response
A former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently wrote to the agency's current director Robert Redfield asking him to expose the "colossal failure" of the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite him said this meant Redfield would likely be fired.
Former CDC director William Foege sent a private letter to Redfield in September, first published by USA Today. He wrote that the Trump administration's response has been categorized as a "colossal public health failure in our country," including failure to hold the CDC responsible and blame the agency and states for going wrong.
PHOTO: CDC Director Robert Redfield speaks on guidelines for reopening schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic on ABC's Good Morning America on July 9, 2020. (ABC News)
In an interview with ABC News, Foege said he did not intend for the letter to be published and wrote to Redfield to apologize for the publication. However, he hopes to show the administration how frustrated the public health community is, and encourages the White House to re-blame the experts for the pandemic.
"I hope there may be some coverage for CDC. When the White House sees that the public health community really feels that they have violated everything we believe them to do by trying to do this themselves." he said.
MORE: 5 former CDC directors on where the US got a mistake in its COVID-19 response
In the letter, Foege called on Redfield to report on how the Trump administration has injured CDC's reputation.
"Do not be afraid of the fact that this has been an unacceptable burden on our country," wrote Foege.
"It's a slaughter, not just a political dispute. You don't want to be seen in the future as if you were giving up your role as a public servant to become a servant of a corrupt president," he wrote.
PHOTO: Former director of the Centers for Disease Control, William H. Foege, stands next to a bust of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, 1985. (Smith Collection via Getty Images)
Foege is a renowned epidemiologist who led the CDC under both Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic President Jimmy Carter. He is credited with leading the strategy that led to the successful eradication of smallpox in the 1970s. He told ABC News that his frustration with the response has been growing for some time, but he sent the letter because he realized that the White House Cornonavirus Response Task Force would not change course.
Public health experts outside the administration have raised serious concerns about the impact of political interference on the pandemic response, particularly as it undermines the CDC's credibility, and they have criticized Redfield for ceasing to do more to help scientists and professionals in the field Protect agency from responding to undermine work.
Five former CDC directors, excluding Foege, said the Trump administration's response to the pandemic had been plagued by mixed news and failed to make science-based decisions about what would stop the virus and save most lives.
PHOTO: President Donald Trump holds a press conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on September 18, 2020 in Washington. (Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images)
Officials appointed by the Trump administration reportedly incriminated scientific reports detailing the patterns in COVID-19 cases and slowed or influenced the publication of guidelines intended for public consumption.
At the start of the pandemic response, CDC guidelines on reopening schools and businesses were delayed as the White House reportedly postponed more detailed CDC recommendations in favor of a weaker language.
HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo, who has since retired, accused government scientists of "rioting" and working to undermine the president, even if the American public did so in a social media riot injured. Redfield said he was "deeply saddened" by these false comments and that CDC's dedicated professionals are working around the clock on the pandemic response.
The President has also publicly undermined Redfield about the importance of masks, which public health experts in the administration believe are the most powerful tool in preventing COVID-19 infection, as well as the possible timing of when vaccines will be available.
PHOTO: Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill September 16, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker / Pool via Reuters, FILE)
Redfield held on to his comments that a vaccine will likely not be available to most Americans until next year, but generally declined to comment on the president's political setbacks.
The CDC declined to reply to the letter and Foege said it had received no reply.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said the narrative the government interfered in the pandemic response was false and dangerous.
"Every decision the CDC made under the Trump administration was data-driven to save lives, and this dishonest narrative created by the media and Democrats that politics influences decisions is not only wrong but dangerous for the American public. All Americans should be informed of best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by the most trusted health agency in the nation, and these recommendations should be based on clear, proven data, "he said in a statement.
MORE: Amid a pandemic, confidence in the CDC is waning with issues of political interference
Foege said he doesn't want Redfield to resign, but rather that he stand up for the truth and accept the consequences.
"I think Dr. Redfield is a very good person and I think he has the intention to do the right thing. And which person after person has shown, they cannot resist President Trump. And all these senators and congressmen who I can't stand them, you can see people falling into the trap, "he said.
"But the problem with this trap is that you go from being a public servant to a private servant quickly. And so you cannot attack this problem."
The former CDC director calls on Redfield to expose the Trump administration's missteps in responding to pandemics, originally posted on abcnews.go.com
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