CDC Director Robert Redfield under a scanning electron microscope.

Back in September of this year — a time that now feels as remote as the James K. Polk administration, or at least that 1996 They Might Be Giants song — we learned that a Trump political appointee at Health and Human Services was trying to force Anthony Fauci to spout Donald Trump's favored bullshit about the coronavirus.

The appointee, one Paul Alexander, also sought to boss the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to present more Trump-friendly information in its weekly research reports. Alexander clearly had what was needed to override the nation's health experts, because he was previously a part-time assistant professor of health research methods at a Canadian university. Alexander was booted from HHS on Sept. 16, the same day as the guy who hired him, HHS spox Michael Caputo. But his legacy lives on as an example of the Trump administration's horrible mismanagement of the pandemic.

So why are we talking about yet another fired Trump appointee now? As Politico reports, on Monday, in a closed-door interview with the House subcommittee that's investigating the government's response to the pandemic, a senior CDC official told investigators that CDC Director Robert Redfield had instructed CDC staff to delete an Aug. 8 email in which Alexander demanded that Caputo and Redfield tell the CDC to stop publishing its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) until Alexander could review each and every draft to make sure it complied with whatever lies Trump was spouting any given week.

That's some seriously Orwellian stuff being applied to a CDC publication considered the gold standard of public health. Except unlike the actual gold standard, it's good. And Redfield's subsequent attempt to send Alexander's stupid email down the Memory Hole probably violated federal record-keeping laws.


"I was instructed to delete the email," MMWR editor Charlotte Kent told investigators. Kent, who was on vacation when Alexander sent the email, said that she was informed of the request by a colleague who filled in for her, and that she understood the request to be from Redfield. Kent said that she never saw the email herself. "I went to look for it after I had been told to delete it, and it was already gone," she told investigators on Monday.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Thursday raised concern the episode may be among "deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence" of political meddling in the pandemic response.

We love Jim Clyburn dearly, but also No Shit, Mr. Chairman. Clyburn sent a letter to Redfield and to HHS Secretary Alex Azar reminding them that telling staff to destroy documents is unethical and possibly illegal, and could even result in prison time. To be fair, it's entirely possible both have been serving in top government posts without anyone mentioning that.

That said, Alexander's email to Caputo really WAS embarrassing, because not only did it document an attempt to undermine science and replace it with political spin, it was insanely badly written, too. He griped that

CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration and meant at this time to impact school re-openings and they then send it to the media knowing it is deceiving. I ask it be stopped now! [...]

The reports must be read by someone outside of CDC like myself, and we cannot allow the reporting to go on as it has been, for it is outrageous. Its lunacy. They may say 'it's the data'; I agree on one level, but they are constantly reporting incompletely and writing in a manner to make the nation run and dig a hole and climb inside with their children for 10 years.

Alexander also hinted at dark forces in the CDC deploying medical data to undermine the best president America has ever had, those swine, they are driving him to write crazy things and pull his hair out!!!!

The result is the administration and public is not being served. All the nation seeks is unbiased reporting of the facts, not a spin and report meant to tell a specific narrative for CDC's goals. I am not sure of what it is but it stinks. I cannot read a report and get pull hair out of my head. [...]

Nothing to go out unless I read and agree with the findings how they CDC, wrote it and I tweak it to ensure it is fair and balanced and 'complete'. And not misleading.

Just to make sure Caputo got the point, Alexander put part of the letter in red. Boy, was he angry!

How true this is! CDC is trying to hurt the Presidnet, and Alexander is only intersted in making sure Donald Trump (and future Presidnets, if any) aren't defamed by science, because after all, "They CDC, work for him," and that's how science works.

One part of Alexander's cleanup that particularly stuck in our craw was the health "researcher's" insistence that there was something dishonest in the CDC's pointing out that children, despite having fewer infections, are still at risk for severe COVID-19. Well sure, one in three hospitalized children had to be admitted to the ICU, but can't CDC simply emphasize the positive part where most kids don't end up in the ICU and leave it at that?

That data is right there in the blue highlighted part, you jerk who may not be pretending and might not actually know what words mean, going by that email.

Politico notes that Redfield issued a statement Thursday in which he "didn't deny telling staff to delete the email, though he said he instructed them to 'ignore Dr. Alexander's comments.'" He also said he's "fully committed to maintaining the independence of the MMWR," so honestly, why all the fuss if he tried to do a little cleaning up?

Also too, a spokesperson from HHS griped that the House committee hadn't included the full context of Ms. Kent's interview with the committee, because "during her testimony Dr. Kent repeatedly said there was no political interference in the MMWR process." See, all she did was present evidence of political interference, while denying it was interference, is all. Shame on you monsters. Politico points out that the HHS spox also ignored questions about whether Redfield had directed HHS staff to delete the email, because as any fool can see from all of this, the real crime is not making Donald Trump's coronavirus response look good, the end.

[Politico / Paul Alexander email]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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