Trump appointee, Michael Caputo, altered Covid-19 facts to benefit the White House over the wellbeing of the American people. Let’s break down what happened.
Trump’s Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson, Michael Caputo, has led efforts to meddle with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) reports on Covid-19 since his appointment in April.
Specifically, HHS and CDC communication aides have sought to downplay the severity of Covid-19 by pressuring CDC scientists and altering text within their reports to align with Trump’s optimistic messaging.
This push came after a May report by senior CDC official Anne Schuchat that analyzed the spread of the coronavirus and the effectiveness of public health measures to combat it, which seems like objectively useful information during a pandemic.
Changes also include retroactive edits to CDC reports that add stipulations, such as that Americans were infected by their own behavior, which is reminiscent of the coronavirus waivers that Trump supporters must sign to attend his rallies.
This comes as Trump and his allies scramble to defend his pandemic response and decision to diminish Covid-19 publicly. However, interview tapes with Bob Woodward quote Trump as calling Covid-19 “the plague” in April while trying to reopen the country.
Why it Matters:
Politico's investigation shows tangible proof of CDC and HHS officials actively dismissing science to coordinate reports with Trump’s messaging instead of trying to sway his stance with evidence of the risks Covid-19 poses to Americans.
In addition to spreading pandemic misinformation, Caputo is inciting fear before the election, too. Just this week, he urged Trump supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection in the event of a contested election.
Public Health Risks
Downplaying Covid-19 transmissibility and severity directly undermines proven public health measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks. It also clouds judgment about whether or not to reopen schools and workplaces.
Furthermore, Caputo’s team tried to redact a statement that “the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine do not outweigh their risks”. Trump has repeatedly touted the anti-malaria drug as an effective treatment to Covid-19 despite contrary evidence and the FDA’s decision to revoke its emergency use.