COVID-19: Trump Calls Legally Protected Whistleblowing a ‘Racket’ as Fired Scientist Rips President

Dr. Rick Bright — who was fired from his post at Department of Health and Human Services last month — condemned the White House’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic as fatally slow, disjointed and inadequate, reports Jake Johnson.

Dr. Rick Bright giving congressional testimony on May 14, 2020.

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

President Donald Trump late Sunday railed against legally protected whistleblowing as a “racket” that should be investigated after federal scientist Dr. Rick Bright — who was fired from his post at Department of Health and Human Services last month—condemned the White House’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic as fatally slow, disjointed, and inadequate.

In a Sunday night tweet-storm, Trump baselessly called Bright a “fake” whistleblower and a “disgruntled employee who supports Dems” after CBS News aired the scientist’s “60 Minutes” interview.

“I don’t know this guy, never met him, but don’t like what I see,” the president continued. “How can a creep like this show up to work tomorrow and report to [HHS Secretary Alex Azar], his boss, after trashing him on T.V.? This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice and harm.”

Bright is a leading vaccine expert who said in a formal whistleblower complaint to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) earlier this month that he was removed from his position at HHS in April in retaliation for questioning the administration’s promotion of untested Covid-19 treatments like hydroxychloroquine.

The ousted head of HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority also alleged that Trump administration officials pressured him to steer lucrative federal contracts to companies with “political connections” to the White House. Bright said he was moved to a lower-ranking role at the National Institutes of Health.

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The OSC, the independent agency that investigates whistleblower complaints, found that there is evidence supporting Bright’s claim that he was the target of retaliation by the Trump administration and informed the scientist’s lawyers that it will ask HHS to stay his removal.

Irvin McCullough, deputy legislative director at the Government Accountability Project, characterized Trump’s tweet as a threat to dismantle federal whistleblower protections and urged members of Congress to condemn the president’s comments.

“How can federal employees feel safe to speak up when the president wants to take away their legal protections?” McCullough said in response to Trump’s tweet, which was hardly the first time the president has publicly attacked a whistleblower.

In his appearance on “60 Minutes,” his first public comments since testifying before the House last week, Bright pushed back against Trump’s claims that he is merely a “disgruntled” employee.

“I am not disgruntled, I am frustrated at a lack of leadership,” Bright said. “I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing live-saving tools for Americans. I’m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists… We don’t yet have a national strategy to respond fully to this pandemic.”

Watch the full interview:

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep

This article is from Common Dreams.

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8 comments for “COVID-19: Trump Calls Legally Protected Whistleblowing a ‘Racket’ as Fired Scientist Rips President

  1. padre
    May 20, 2020 at 06:43

    If you are looking for anybody who knows, what racket means, Trump is the guy!He’s been racketing whole world year after year!

  2. Athula
    May 19, 2020 at 18:15

    Hydroxychloroquine should not be used as a straw man in a battle which is clearly political (in fact it is not even a straw man but is quite robust).

    This drug has a long history and it’s safety profile well known and it’s efficacy in porphylaxis against malaria and autoimmune disorders well known. It is a drug that is off patent and cheap. It is dishonest to say it has been untested. It has been tested in emergency clinical settings against Covid in multiple countries.

    Sri Lanka which formally instituted this treatment protocol appears to have suppressed the mortality rate below 1%. Australia which may have commenced using it had early success, may have abandoned it (this is not certain) and has had its mortality rate climb from below 1% towards 1.5%. Sri Lanka may have now moved onto a controlled trial of porphylaxis.

    There is considerable clinical evidence accumulating which shows that this drug can suppress viral symptoms in 5 days and save lives. There just has not been a double blind placebo controlled trial (gold standard) which will not be ethically approved but comparative controlled trials are possible.

    To use the term untested regarding this drug and link it to cronyism when it is off patent and cheap is disingenuous, and this is the clue as to the political motivation of the “scientist”.

    I am not aware of the exact circumstances of the dismissal of this person but in my experience in public service, you cannot be dismissed for questioning but Governments as employers are very strict if employees undermine their authority publicly.

    That is not to say I do not favour whistleblowers, that is another matter. But it undermines whistleblowers when someone uses dishonest motivations. This appears to be a recent pattern in the US.

    • adwoa
      May 20, 2020 at 02:09

      My only question for you is this, are you a scientist? I am not a scientist either but during a pandemic don’t you think the corrupt, self-aggrandizing politicians ought to let the scientists plan the public health strategy and lead the response? So, who do you think has made this issue political? Why is it that everything dumb idea that Trump comes up with must be defended? This is not the time for bickering or political posturing. More than 90,000 people have died and over a million are infected in this country alone. Don’t you suppose that it’s time to let science, logic and even commonsense guide public decisions. Dr, Bright is a whistleblower of great credibility. Whistleblowing in government is what helps weed out corruption, fraud, waist and abuse in government. It should be encouraged. Frankly, as openly abusive and corrupt Trump is, I’m surprised there aren’t many whistleblowers filing complaints. You have a corrupt Congress, with the House under the leadership of the corrupt and reactionary Pelosi and the Senate under the leadership of the odious, Machiavellian and confederate sympathizer McConnell. We are toast! No leadership from Trump and no leadership from Congress. How pathetic.

      Regarding hydroxychloroquine, are you aware that a study in Brazil, among other cases reported in the prestigious Medical Journal the Lancet, was terminated in the middle when subjects started expiring? Let the scientists prepare a coherent plan to deal with this pandemic.

  3. Realist
    May 19, 2020 at 01:48

    Long ago Trump said that he was going to confer the power to make the most meaningful decisions on war and peace to his generals, because they were the professionals in the war business, even though modern warfare seems to transcend just the battlefield. He backed that up by choosing a significant number of generals, both active and retired, to fill his cabinet. He also speaks of giving the financial insiders, especially his well-heeled political backers, the right to run this country’s economy, especially the banking system, because they are the ones with the know-how about money, rather than the liberals he considers to be raving socialists. And so it goes with Mr. Trump who espouses some uber-conservative version of the meritocracy contrived by those decidedly to his left.

    Now, why is it that would-be Doctor Trump has never been ready to turn over hard policy making powers to the professional physicians and life-scientists whose life work it has been to protect our health and extend the human lifespan? I’m not saying that the formidable Dr. Fauci or any other single person should have dictatorial powers when it comes to these things, but they should have prerogatives and influence superseding the whims of a scientific illiterate and his financial and political cronies when it comes to fighting a pandemic that may threaten the stability of society itself. Who should decide if it is, in fact, such a threat based on all available empirical facts? Certainly not reckless leaders, whether elected or not, who deride the emergency as no more than a hoax and deserving no more attention than a seasonal flu simply because that, of course, is what most people desperately want to hear, rather than that they stand to lose loved ones no matter how hard doctors may try to protect them because mankind still has an awful lot to learn about the real world, and acting on cocky assumptions is no short cut to success.

    Most certainly the virus will not comport to anyone’s edicts and agree to stand down because a national leader has decided, using his gut rather than his brain, that quarantines (hardly given a chance) did not work and that the economy must now be re-opened and normality re-imposed. The virus would laugh at this notion, if it could. It will simply go back to following its genetic imperative under conditions it previously found quite favorable. Because it is constrained by the laws of physics and chemistry, it simply can’t do anything else.

    Good luck on your prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine, Mr. President. Hope it doesn’t kill you. Do you even know what its mechanism of action is in retarding growth of the malaria parasite in the human bloodstream, and why that may have any relevance to a viral infection of the respiratory tract? In case you didn’t know, protozoans and viruses are extremely different life forms that reproduce by very different mechanisms in very different tissues within the human body. Dr. Fauci might be able to find a few infectious disease experts able to debate the matter on pragmatic grounds but even that conversation would be rife with bald speculation because so few hard facts are in-hand, but I doubt you could even proffer the wildest guess of what good this chemical might be doing to supposedly keep the virus from penetrating the cells of your mucous membranes and hijacking their biosynthetic machinery to produce more virus particles and rupture your own victimized cells. If you have any other ideas on how to suppress runaway inflammation and autophagy of your infected lung cells, a lot of front line researchers would like to hear it, sir. Hydroxychloroquine might not be the way to go just because you know a guy who’s got the world market on the stuff cornered.

  4. Seby
    May 19, 2020 at 01:42

    Since he is a racketeer, I guess we are supposed to think of him as a specialist on what is a racket. This orange-uatang is not a Smedley Butler.

  5. bobzz
    May 18, 2020 at 21:55

    Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine now. Is anyone digging into which of his cronies stands to benefit from him pushing this so hard?

    • Zhu
      May 19, 2020 at 08:54

      No Lysol or Chlorox?

  6. John R
    May 18, 2020 at 21:06

    The scariest part of this for me is realizing that there are those in the Orange base that choose to believe their proven liar hero and follow his lead over that of a PhD virology scientist regarding proper and intelligent course of action to minimize death and suffering in the US. What could possibly go wrong ? Had enough of this insane show – yet ?

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