The former director of the office looking to discover a COVID-19 vaccine claimed that the Trump administration ignored early warnings about the virus and removed him from his position when he was critical of the administration’s response to the pandemic.
Dr. Rick Bright, former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, filed the whistleblower complaint on Tuesday, hoping to be returned to his previous position.
Bright claimed that he raised concerns about the lack of necessary medical supplies, but that his superiors in the Trump administration did not take his issues seriously and eventually reassigned him as punishment for whistleblowing.
He also criticized the position of President Donald Trump and others touting the benefits of anti-malaria drugs in treating coronavirus even when they lacked strong evidence.
“I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government,” said Bright, as reported by CNN.
According to the complaint addendum, administration officials “refused to listen or take appropriate action to accurately inform the public” when he raised concerns about possible treatments.
“Bright clearly earned the enmity of HHS leadership when his communications with members of Congress, certain White House officials, and the press … revealed the lax and dismissive attitude HHS leadership exhibited in the face of the deadly threat confronting our country,” continued the complaint.
The complaint went on to argue that Bright’s reassignment to the National Institutes of Health was justified by HHS through a “baseless smear campaign against him.”
“His efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency and to expose practices that posed a substantial risk to public health and safety, especially as it applied to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, rankled those in the Administration who wished to continue to push this false narrative,” added the complaint.
HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley told CNN in a statement that the reassignment was not a retaliatory act, but rather was part of an overall strategy to stopping the pandemic.
“Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing — critical to combatting COVID-19 — where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of $1 billion to advance that effort,” stated Oakley.
“We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor.”
President Trump, meanwhile, touted the success of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in their efforts to help combat the coronavirus in a series of tweets on Wednesday.
“Ventilators, which were few & in bad shape, are now being produced in the thousands, and we have many to spare. We are helping other countries which are desperate for them,” tweeted Trump.
“The last four Governors teleconference calls have been conclusively strong. Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”