Dr. Rick Bright's Whistleblower Complaint On Trump's F*cked HHS Coronavirus Response Will Leave You SHOOK
Seriously one of the most horrifying things we have ever read. Seriously.
A couple weeks ago, Donald Trump's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fired Dr. Rick Bright — who was America's very qualified chief of vaccines and a pandemic expert — from his job, by shunting him over to a lesser job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Until that demotion, he had been director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS. He was fired, according to his statement, because he (a scientist expert) refused to go along with the administration's obsession with promoting Trump's favorite malaria drug, Hydroxybonercream 3000, as the miracle cure for the novel coronavirus.
Specifically, he wrote that "contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the Administration as a panacea but which clearly lack scientific merit," because Fox News and Rudy Giuliani and President Mouth Lies wouldn't stop lying to the American people about it.
According to Bright's lawyer Debra Katz, when they offered him his cool "new job," which he has not started and may not even technically exist, they were like, "Oh, you are just a victim of your own success! Oh boy, we have a special mission for you!" They lied to Bright and told him his transfer was part of a "bold new plan" to defeat the coronavirus, one that apparently did not include him standing in the way of Trump throat-cramming your Nana with Hydroxybonercream 3000. Then they started lying about him, smearing him like a common Marie Yovanovitch, because everything in Trumpworld is the same all the time.
Now Dr. Bright has filed an official whistleblower complaint. It is ... fuck .
You thought there was incompetence on Jared Kushner's Power Ranger Volunteer Strike Force for PPE Procurement? Hahahahahaha, well, check out what's happening at HHS, according to Rick Bright.
Bright's supervisor was a guy named Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR), who answers directly to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. In the complaint, Bright accuses Kadlec of abuse of authority and censorship and mismanagement and waste of funds and and just generally acting in a way that's a "substantial and specific danger to public health." Is Dr. Kadlec the Zodiac Killer who canceled "Arrested Development"? We don't know, but MAYBE.
Bright's lawyer writes in the complaint that Bright "clashed" with Kadlec starting around 2018, when Bright started to notice rampant cronyism taking precedence over science at BARDA, but says it got really bad when COVID-19 hit.
Allegations of cronyism in Bright's whistleblower complaint go all the way back to 2017, though. There's a specific situation involving a pharma lobbyist named John Clerici strong-arming Bright into continuing a contract with a pharma company called Aeolus, even though it was a bad contract, because — you'll never guess — the CEO of the company, John McManus, was friends with Jared . Sounds like Clerici just casually mafia-threatened Bright by suggesting the CEO might have bad stories about Bright put in the newspaper if he stood in the way of the CA$H. And then there was an issue in 2018, involving the same lobbyist, and Bright's objections to spending $40 million on a crap influenza drug from a company that guy repped, instead of another drug Dr. Bright recommended that was better, according to science.
AND SO MUCH MORE! Much of which appears to involve Dr. Kadlec and Mr. Clerici!
Let's get to the coronavirus shit, though.
And then the murders began. (Kind of literally, we guess.)
From the complaint:
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit [...] Dr. Bright became even more alarmed about the pressure that Dr. Kadlec and other government officials were exerting on BARDA to invest in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies without proper scientific vetting or that lacked scientific merit. Dr. Bright objected to these efforts and made clear that BARDA would only invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic in safe and scientifically vetted solutions and it would not succumb to the pressure of politics or cronyism.
Not doing politics or cronyism? How does that get Rudy Giuliani's butt wet? It doesn't .
The complaint states that HHS "leveled baseless criticisms" at Bright for trying to fight for an actual vaccine and procure actual PPE, and then retaliated against him for refusing to go along with their plan to "flood" states with the unproven Trump miracle drug Hydroxybonercream 3000 from Pakistan and India, which "had not been inspected by the FDA." When the Trump administration was just pretty sure Bright was the source for an article about how the hydroxys are actually not good — he was a source, and acted as one because nobody else would listen and people were fucking dying — they fired him.
Katz explains that in "early January," Bright and other HHS scientists knew how dangerous coronavirus was, despite how HHS Secretary Azar was telling Trump and everybody else it was FINEJUSTFINE. (Azar says he was running around with his hair on fire like a common Richard Clarke and it was everybody else's fault. We will split the difference and assume it was all of them.) And what Bright got from HHS leadership in exchange for waving his hands and shouting "FUCK! PANDEMIC!" was "indifference which then developed into hostility." He couldn't get them to do anything . They needed money. They needed virus samples from China, which HHS refused to even request, apparently, even from the CDC, which was acquiring them. And even back then, Dr. Bright knew they needed N95 masks and other PPE. This guy was trying to fix the mask shortage problem in fucking January . Oh yeah, and testing! On January 23, Bright told HHS leadership that the coronas "might already be here. We just don't have the tests to know one way or the other." So he was already yelling WHERE ARE THE FUCKING TESTS, in January .
He got jackshit for his efforts. Dr. Kadlec didn't give a fuck. Alex Azar didn't give a fuck. Donald Trump didn't give a fuck. Katz writes that Bright's requests did set off a "shit storm," though, in the words of Bryan Shuy, Dr. Kadlec's chief of staff, and that his pleas for BARDA funding "offended HHS leadership." So they kicked him out of the coronavirus meetings.
Oh, and remember how for the longest time, the US government just didn't think people should wear masks, but then all of a sudden they changed their mind because "new information" or whatever? That sounds more political than ever, now that we've read about a February 7 meeting where Bright sounded the alarm about mask shortages in a meeting with CDC officials and was told "that the plan was to monitor for any supply chain issues and, if needed, ask the CDC to update its guidelines to tell people who 'don't need' masks to not buy them." Good plan, guys!
Dr. Bright responded, "I can't believe that you can sit there and say that with a straight face. Do you really believe that changing a CDC guideline to tell people not to wear masks would reduce the panic people would feel once this virus spreads?" He again emphasized the need to contact mask producers to place orders immediately.
Somehow the hero (for whatever value of "hero" you can assign in the Trump White House) was Trump trade advisor idiot Peter Navarro, who actually met with Bright on February 8 and listened to his concerns and seemed to give a shit:
Dr. Bright emphasized the need to secure N95 masks and to ramp up mask production. He also informed Mr. Navarro about other actions that were urgently needed to develop diagnostic tools, drugs, and ultimately a vaccine, to combat the virus. In the short run, Dr. Bright urged Mr. Navarro to take immediate action to increase the mask supply, amass Remdesivir, and fund and initiate a "Manhattan Project" for vaccine development. Unlike Secretary Azar, Dr. Kadlec and other members of HHS leadership who dismissed Dr. Bright's assessments and urgent requests and excluded Dr. Bright from key meetings, Mr. Navarro asked good questions and was prepared to take prompt action to address this impending health crisis. Mr. Navarro clearly recognized that Dr. Bright was unable to get any traction with HHS and was, to Dr. Bright's great relief, prepared to act.
The next day, Navarro did write a memo and the White House coronavirus task force did order HHS to do what the fuck Dr. Bright said and HHS leadership did get very mad at Dr. Bright, who had just cut their loser dicks off at the root. And Bright continued briefing Navarro, which made HHS even madder, because it made HHS look like a buncha idiots.
There is so much more, including how far up the administration's ass Bright was about coronavirus testing problems in February and March, and just how few fucks our new friend Dr. Kadlec gave about COVID-19 testing supply shortages. Also Kadlec got real mad when Bright managed to get money for coronavirus research appropriated by Congress directly in the CARES Act to BARDA — the correct place — instead of just generally to HHS and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, where Dr. Kadlec could slush fund it around more easily and just give BARDA whatever allowance he thought was appropriate.
As Katz writes:
For the first time, the ASPR had less control over BARDA's money, and BARDA could direct its resources towards those proposals with the greatest scientific potential to combat COVID-19. Accordingly, it became much more difficult for Dr. Kadlec to redirect funds to support projects for his cronies or for political purposes. Dr. Kadlec obviously understood this fact and was not happy.
Ooh that made HHS so mad. "Scientific potential"? Who needs that? YUCK!
Especially when Donald Trump was about to singlehandedly cure COVID-19 with ...
SUPER MAGIC HYDROXYBONERCREAM 3000!
OK, so according to the complaint, Dr. Kadlec stole BARDA's money anyway. You see, in late March, he wanted BARDA to fund a couple of pharma companies that were doing bold new experiments in making a roux out of hydroxychloroquine and the active ingredient in Pepcid AC, and Dr. Kadlec thought that was awesome, and other scientists thought it was not awesome ...
No yeah, we just typed "Pepcid."
On or around April 1, 2020, [BARDA doctor Gary] Disbrow called Dr. Bright with concerns about this request. Dr. Disbrow asked Dr. Bright, "Can you believe they want to use Pepcid AC now?"
Yes, we unfortunately can. Anyway, Dr. Bright was kept out of that loop, because the approval process seemed to completely circumvent the law and Dr. Bright is a big nerd who is always like "DURRRR LET'S NOT BREAK THE LAW." BARDA was ultimately forced to give the money to the "Let's cure coronavirus with Pepcid AC!" trial. Because of course.
But THEN the REAL hydroxy-fun began! And also the straw that broke the camel's back that got Dr. Bright fired.
You see, they were trying to get a win for Donald Trump, American Idiot, and Trump was excited about hydroxychloroquine and Fox News was excited about hydroxychloroquine, so HHS/ASPR tried to get BARDA to get excited about hydroxychloroquine. But BARDA, a big party pooper, was like nah, not really . So then they asked again, on March 17, saying they needed all BARDA's hottest updates on Hydroxybonercream 3000 "ASAP . . . like immediately." Because Bayer told them it was totally awesome and they were going to donate three million hydroxybonercreams! And BARDA was like seriously, you guys, that's not proven, and it's not looking good .
BARDA did not even want the free hydroxybonercreams. : (
Because BARDA knew there were serious, serious problems with it, and they were not OK with everybody just eating hydroxybonercream, because it didn't appear to be safe.
Excerpts from intra-BARDA emails:
"there are safety liabilities associated with the drug . . . accepting the donation could send a signal that we are not concerned about the risk." [...] "I do not believe we should accept the donation [of chloroquine from Bayer] until we have an understanding on the clinical utility of the drug. Accepting the donation could lead to widespread use that is not supported by any clinical data."
"no data available to support that chloroquine provides clinical benefit in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19."
But Trump needed a wiiiiiiiiiiiiin! And HHS leadership wanted to GIIIIIIIIVE HIM ITTTTTTTT!
So the deal was rammed through, and Trump lied about Hydroxybonercream 3000 to the American people, and Bayer gave them millions of free pills from Pakistan and India. They just needed a way to give it to the American people, so the White House demanded Dr. Bright make that happen. He was not pleased, for a number of reasons, including that the drug appeared unsafe in some instances for coronavirus patients, the FDA couldn't inspect the facilities that made them, etc.
Dr. Bright remained extremely concerned, as HHS leadership seemed willing to make these drugs widely available without any clinical assurance that the drug was safe. He feared that the wide scale availability of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could lead to serious patient harm and potentially many patient deaths.
HHS apparently was so eager to give Trump his "win" that it was trying to get the hydroxys approved for people to just be able to buy at their local Walgreens, and not even under a doctor's care. For real! Jesus Christ.
The expanded use authorization (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine that came from the FDA — for doctors to be able to give it to patients in hospitals "off label" at their discretion — was a compromise between medical sanity and the HHS and Trump jizzing themselves to, we dunno, get them to replace the fluoride in the water supply with hydroxychloroquine. (Oh god, we cannot believe Trump hasn't suggested that yet.)
But yet HHS leadership and the Trump administration KEPT trying to go around even that EUA, which Dr. Bright negotiated, to get hydroxychloroquine into the Corn Flakes of all breathing Americans, with the help of folks like HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir and Stephen Hahn, Trump's idiot over at the FDA.
A missive from Giroir, who didn't like the EUA:
"NOPE . . . Needs to go to pharmacies as well. The EUA matters not . . . The drug is approved [and] therefore can be prescribed as per doctor's orders. That is a FINAL ANSWER."
Fucking hell. As the complaint states, "Adm. Giroir's response made crystal clear that the Administration would stop at nothing to make the experimental drug widely available to the American people, no matter the consequences—not because it was safe or effective, but because [...] it was seen by the Administration as 'a BIG immediate win.'"
Dr. Bright did everything he could to protect the American people. He thought the EUA he brokered would at least somewhat do that. He was wrong.
So it was that when a journalist came a-calling, Dr. Bright felt he had no moral choice but to talk to that journalist about the well-documented dangers of the Hydroxyboner snake oil cure. And so he talked.
He didn't give the journalist any classified information. He followed whistleblower laws. And then he got fired, in what the complaint describes as "blatantly retaliatory" action. They told him he was going on a super-secret special COVID mission with the National Institutes of Health, because he was so good at stuff. It was a trick.
Then they started a smear campaign against Dr. Bright, claiming he "mismanaged his office and mistreated his staff" and a whole shit-ton of other things. You betcha.
Bright and his lawyer are requesting a stay of his quit-firing, pending an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel.
This whistleblower complaint is one of the most horrifying things we have ever read.
Dr. Bright has receipts for all of it, in the form of MANY emails, and they would be hilarious to read if we weren't talking about the blood of 70,000 dead Americans and counting smeared all over Donald Trump's hands.
How bad is the Trump administration response to coronavirus, really ? This bad.
Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE, DO IT RIGHT HERE!
Wonkette is fully funded by readers like YOU. If you love Wonkette, SUPPORT WONKETTE FINANCIALLY.