$300 Million For HHS COVID-19 Propaganda Ads With Dennis Quaid? This Is Fine.
Over the weekend, Politico published an article revealing that we, the taxpayers of this nation, are paying $300 million for ads produced by the Health and Human Services department that are all about the fabulous job the Trump administration is doing on the COVID-19 pandemic — which is quite the thing for us to be paying for so close to the election. In fact, it's so blatantly just a bunch of pro-Trump ads that HHS spokesman Michael Caputo, who conceived the whole thing, actually made a Facebook video about how much "the Democrats" will come after him for the ads.
The public awareness campaign, which HHS is seeking to start airing before Election Day on Nov. 3, was largely conceived and organized by Michael Caputo, the health department's top spokesperson who took medical leave last week and announced on Thursday that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Caputo, who has no medical or scientific background, claimed in a Facebook video on Sept. 13 that the campaign was "demanded of me by the president of the United States. Personally."
"The Democrats — and, by the way, their conjugal media and the leftist scientists that are working for the government — are dead set against it," Caputo told his Facebook followers in the Sept. 13 video. "They cannot afford for us to have any good news before November because they're already losing. … They're going to come after me because I'm going to be putting $250 million worth of ads on the air."
That would be the same Facebook rant in which he claimed that the CDC was going to have him killed. So you can see how the news of the propaganda campaign got buried.
Oh! And by the way, that $300 million is $300 million that was supposed to go to the CDC. Caputo requisitioned the money for his little project.
Caputo's team in June requisitioned $300 million that Congress had previously appropriated to the CDC. According to three people with knowledge of the deliberations, the request was abrupt and HHS offered minimal detail to CDC officials on how the money would be spent for the upcoming campaign.
Is it not an informative ad campaign so much as it is a series of ads meant to "restore hope" and "defeat despair." Caputo spent a large portion of his tenure as HHS spokesman attempting to downplay the seriousness of the virus and this ad campaign does not appear to be a divergence from that path.
Although the CDC provided the funds, it has not been involved at all in the development of the campaign. Probably because of how Michael Caputo thinks they are trying to murder him.
Set to star in the ads are Hollywood actor Dennis Quaid and gospel singer singer CeCe Winans, and word is that they are also hoping to get Dr. Oz and Garth Brooks, who — to be fair — probably has a better grasp of science and medicine than does Dr. Oz. Then again, so do the shoes that I am currently wearing.
There are all kinds of extremely shady things about this whole deal — including the fact that he was also doling out favors to his friends.
Meanwhile, Caputo's team used the Food and Drug Administration to fund a separate $15 million contract that quickly moved forward last month while the larger $250 million contract was still being hammered out.
The $15 million contract, which has not been previously reported, was officially awarded to Atlas Research on Aug. 26. An FDA spokesperson said that the funding for the contract was provided by HHS and the contract is being overseen by HHS.
As part of the contract, HHS recommended that Atlas use a subcontractor firm called DD&T, according to spokespeople for Atlas and the federal government.
DD&T, it turns out, is owned by Caputo's friend and longtime business partner, filmmaker Den Tolmor. He went around pushing him on everyone for weeks, despite his lack of experience on such an ad campaign — and yet somehow forgot to disclose his relationship with him.
Naturally, there was a lot of criticism of this ad campaign and the HHS over the weekend, largely because of how tax payers should actually not be paying for Trump's campaign ads. People were a little mad about it! Dennis Quaid is also mad, but he's not mad at this extremely shady situation. He's mad at everyone for canceling him, which I was not aware anyone did.
Hello everyone, Dennis Quaid here. I have to say that right now I am feeling some outrage and a lot of disappointment about a PSA and interview that I did with Dr. Anthony Fauci a few weeks ago. It is being used by the cancel culture media that I was doing a campaign ad and endorsement of Donald Trump and that I was paid handsomely for this by diverted CDC funds. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I was doing, I did a PSA for Dr. Anthony Fauci and he was kind enough to grant me an interview as well, and the interview and the PSA were about raising awareness of COVID-19 and what we can still do to prevent lives being lost to this terrible, terrible virus. It was about the importance of wearing a mask and social distanicing [sic] and it was in no way political. In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci and I both talked about it before that it was not to be political, as the virus is not political. I was not paid one penny for doing this interview and nether was Dr. Anthony Fauci. I am really disappointed that some people who call themselves legitimate reporters don't do their homework. If you would like to listen to my entire conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci you can, it's on my podcast the Dennaissance Podcast on Audio Up. Whoever wrote this story obviously didn't listen to the interview. Anyway, thank you for your time. Everybody out there stay safe, and wear a mask. God bless.
It actually said nowhere in the article that Quaid was paid. Just that the campaign itself was paid for using diverted CDC funds and that it more closely resembles campaign ads for Donald Trump than it does traditional public service announcements.
If he's going to criticize reporters for not "doing their homework" he might want to consider reading the whole entire article before yelling about cancel culture. There isn't a single paragraph in the article on how no one can watch the 2011 remake of Footloose anymore. In fact, it didn't really seem like it was about Dennis Quaid doing anything so much as it was definitely about Michael Caputo being shady AF.
If Dennis Quaid's interview with Dr. Fauci is apolitical? That's great, good for him. That doesn't mean that other ads won't be pro-Trump propaganda, and that doesn't mean that the requisitioning of funds for this little project of Caputo's was on the up and up. We already have one Quaid brother who thinks everyone is out to get him, we don't need two.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse