Trump official preventing Fauci from discussing Covid children risk
A health official hired by a Donald Trump appointee has been working to prevent Dr Anthony Fauci from talking about dangers that Covid-19 poses to children, Politico reported on Wednesday.
The attempts by Dr Paul Alexander – who serves as a senior adviser to Michael Caputo, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) assistant public affairs secretary – were described in emails obtained by Politico.
Alexander reportedly told media liaisons at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about what Fauci should discuss during interviews. Alexander opined on Fauci’s possible responses to inquiries from publications such as Bloomberg News, HuffPost and BuzzFeed.
“I continue to have an issue with kids getting tested and repeatedly and even university students in a widespread manner … and I disagree with Dr Fauci on this. Vehemently,” Alexander wrote in a 27 August email, in response to a press office rundown of Fauci’s planned remarks to Bloomberg.
In an email Tuesday, Alexander also told Fauci’s spokesperson that he should not advocate mask-wearing by children in a planned MSNBC sit-down.
“Can you ensure Dr Fauci indicates masks are for the teachers in schools. Not for children,” Alexander reportedly said in this email.
“There is no data, none, zero, across the entire world, that shows children, especially young children, spread this virus to other children, or to adults or to their teachers. None. And if it did occur, the risk is essentially zero.”
While Alexander’s long missives were framed as scientific concerns, they routinely contrasted with mainstream science. The messages also boosted Trump’s opinions on controversial topics involving coronavirus, such as school reopenings and using convalescent plasma, Politico noted.
The cache of emails provide more evidence that Trump and his HHS appointees are telling health officials to push political messaging over scientific information.
Caputo reportedly said in a statement that Fauci is a key voice amid the public health crisis, claiming Alexander’s focus is assessing other scientists’ work. Caputo appointed Alexander, a part-time professor of health research methods, in March.
“Dr Alexander advises me on pandemic policy and he has been encouraged to share his opinions with other scientists,” Caputo’s statement said. “Like all scientists, his advice is heard and taken or rejected by his peers. I hired Dr Alexander for his expertise and not to simply resonate others’ opinions.”
Fauci, who has helmed NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for almost 40 years, said that he hadn’t seen Alexander’s emails. Fauci also said that his staff did not tell him to downplay Covid-19’s risks to children.
“No one tells me what I can say and cannot say,” Fauci reportedly commented. “I speak on scientific evidence.”
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