Show an ad over header. AMP

Trump's war on the public health experts

A pandemic would normally be a time when public health expertise and data are in urgent demand — yet President Trump and his administration have been going all out to undermine them.

Why it matters: There's a new example almost every day of this administration trying to marginalize the experts and data that most administrations lean on and defer to in the middle of a global crisis.


Here's how it has been happening just in the past few weeks:

  • The administration has repeatedly undermined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most recently, Trump has criticized the CDC's school reopening guidelines, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declared that "kids need to be in school," and the administration has reportedly ordered hospitals to bypass the CDC in reporting coronavirus patient information.
  • It has repeatedly undermined Anthony Fauci. Trump distanced himself on Wednesday from an op-ed attack by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, but longtime Trump aide Dan Scavino also called the infectious diseases specialist "Dr. Faucet" in a Facebook post accusing him of leaking his disagreements. And the White House gave a opposition research-style list of the times Fauci "has been wrong" to the Washington Post and other media outlets.
  • Trump himself undermined public health experts generally with his retweet of former game show host Chuck Woolery's "everyone is lying" tweet — which blamed "The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust."
  • Trump has made numerous statements suggesting, over and over again, that we wouldn't have as many COVID cases if we just tested less. (From his Tuesday press conference at the White House: "If we did half the testing we would have half the cases.”)

The impact: The result is that the CDC — which is supposed to be the go-to agency in a public health crisis — is distracted by constant public critiques from the highest levels. And Fauci, "America's Doctor," is the subject of yet another round of stories about whether Trump is freezing him out.

  • "The way to make Americans safer is to build on, not bypass, our public health system," Tom Frieden, a former CDC director under Barack Obama, said in a statement to Axios about the efforts to sideline the agency.
  • "Unfortunately, as with mask-up recommendations and schools reopening guidance, the administration has chosen to sideline and undermine our nation’s premier disease fighting agency in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years," Frieden said.
  • And Fauci, in an interview with The Atlantic, said of the efforts to discredit him: "Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that ... It doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them."

The other side: The White House insists there's no problem. “President Trump has always acted on the science and valued the input of public health experts throughout this crisis,” said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews.

  • Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh closed ranks with the experts as well. “President Trump has said repeatedly that he has a strong relationship with Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Fauci has always said that the President listens to his advice," he said.
  • And Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo declared that "the scientists and doctors speak openly, they are listened to closely, and their advice and counsel helps guide the response."
  • "Frankly, when it comes to this tempest in a teapot over Dr. Fauci, I blame the media and their unending search for a ‘Resistance’ hero, for turning half a century of a brilliant scientist’s hard work into a clickbait headline that helps reporters undermine the president’s coronavirus response," Caputo said.

Between the lines: Murtaugh deflected several times when asked whether there was a deliberate strategy to marginalize the CDC and the experts: "The President and the White House have consistently advised Americans to follow CDC guidelines. The President also believes we can open schools safely on time and that we must do so."

  • However, one administration official said there were parts of the CDC school reopening guidelines that were impractical, and noted that kids can also suffer long-term harm by staying out of school too long.

Our thought bubble, by Axios White House reporter Alayna Treene: The responses make it clear that the White House and the Trump campaign don't want to advance the narrative that they're deliberately battling with America's health experts, or that there's any kind of strategy behind it.

The bottom line: When the history of this pandemic is written, it will show that the public health experts who were trying to fight it also had to deal with political fights that made their jobs harder.

Bond investors see brighter days

U.S. government bonds could breakout further after yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked up to their highest since early June last week.

But, but, but: Strategists say this move is about an improving outlook for economic growth rather than just inflation.

Keep reading... Show less

The dangerous instability of school re-openings

Schools across the country have flip-flopped between in-person and remote learning — and that instability is taking a toll on students' ability to learn and their mental health.

The big picture: While companies were able to set long timelines for their return, schools — under immense political and social strain — had to rush to figure out how to reopen. The cobbled-together approach has hurt students, parents and teachers alike.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump doesn't have a second-term economic plan

President Trump has not laid out an economic agenda for his second term, despite the election being just eight days away.

Why it matters: This is unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns, and makes it harder for undecided voters to make an informed choice.

Keep reading... Show less

How Trump’s energy endgame could go

Expect President Trump to redouble his efforts loosening regulations and questioning climate-change science should he win reelection next month.

Driving the news: A second Trump administration would supercharge efforts by certain states, countries and companies to address global warming. But some wildcards could have a greener tinge.

Keep reading... Show less

The swing states where the pandemic is raging

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, The Cook Political Report; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Several states that are likely to decide which party controls Washington next year have exceptionally large coronavirus outbreaks or are seeing cases spike.

Why it matters: Most voters have already made up their minds. But for those few holdouts, the state of the pandemic could ultimately help them make a decision as they head to the polls — and that's not likely to help President Trump.

Keep reading... Show less

Tropical Storm Zeta may strengthen into hurricane before reaching U.S.

The U.S. Gulf Coast and Mexico are bracing for another possible hurricane after Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Caribbean Sea Sunday.

Of note: Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season — equaling a record set in 2005.

Keep reading... Show less

Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery

The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Monday that it will allocate $1 billion over the next three years to address the pandemic and its aftermath.

Why it matters: The mishandled pandemic and the effects of climate change threaten to reverse global progress and push more than 100 million people into poverty around the world. Governments and big NGOs need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery reaches everyone who needs it.

Keep reading... Show less

How Amy Coney Barrett will make an immediate impact on the Supreme Court

In her first week on the job,Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories