All day long the media has been frothing over a story that hit this morning about a director at HHS who claimed he was ousted over his opposition to hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. Here’s the original story:
CBS NEWS – The former director of the agency involved in developing a vaccine for COVID-19 said he was removed after he pushed to vet and to limit drug treatments often touted by President Trump, the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. “Specifically, and 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,” Dr. Rick Bright said in a statement released by his lawyers Wednesday.
Bright was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and HHS deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response by the administration.
He said that he was “involuntarily transferred to a more limited and less impactful position at the National Institutes of Health,” a transfer that he believes came in response to his “insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.”
“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way,” he said in his statement. Bright is a career official and not a political appointee. He has requested that the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services investigate his dismissal.
Got it? This guy was ousted over the politics of him pushing back against using hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients, a story perfectly made for this anti-Trump media.
And yet Politico is reporting something almost entirely different. They report that Bright was actually on board with HHS purchasing tons of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 and his ouster has been over a year in the making:
Rick Bright, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, was transferred to a new, more narrow role at the National Institutes of Health this week, an HHS spokesperson confirmed. The move was more than a year in the making — Bright had clashed with department leaders about his decisions and the scope of his authority — but came abruptly, said five current and former HHS officials.
One person familiar with the situation said Bright was frozen out of his email and learned about the reassignment only when his name was removed from the BARDA website this weekend. As of Tuesday, Bright had not accepted the reassignment to NIH, where he was tapped to work on efforts to deploy point-of-care Covid-19 testing. Gary Disbrow, Bright’s former deputy, is now BARDA’s acting leader.
Bright told The New York Times on Wednesday that he believed his removal was because of his internal opposition to pursuing investments in malaria drugs as potential treatments for Covid-19, which President Donald Trump has touted without scientific evidence. Three people with knowledge of HHS’ recent acquisition of tens of millions of doses of those drugs said Bright had supported those acquisitions in internal communications, with one official saying that Bright praised the move as a win for the health department as part of an email exchange that was first reported by Reuters last week, although Bright’s message was not publicly reported.
“If Bright opposed hydroxychloroquine, he certainly didn’t make that clear from his email — quite the opposite,” said the official, who has seen copies of the email exchanges.
Politico goes on to write that Bright was criticized in HHS for not moving his department quickly enough during this pandemic:
“BARDA was not as responsive during the crisis” as it could have been, said one former official. “Rather than prioritizing therapeutics that could be available in weeks, Bright focused on products that would take weeks or months.” For instance, BARDA didn’t make what’s known as a broad agency announcement to solicit potential investments in diagnostics, vaccines or treatments until March, five weeks after HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency over the Covid-19 outbreak.
You can read more about this at Politico, but clearly their reporting makes the ouster sound much different than what was reported earlier.
Here’s one last tidbit that you should know about Bright…
The doctor who claimed he was demoted after raising concerns about hydroxychloroquine hired the attorneys who represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Dr. Rick Bright, who was the head of the Health and Human Services agency tasked with creating a coronavirus vaccine, claimed he was fired after raising concerns about the anti-malaria drug touted by President Trump as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. After his demotion, Bright linked up with the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, the same firm that represented Blasey Ford.
Attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks have deep ties to high-ranking members of the Democratic Party. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein recommended the two to Blasey Ford after she came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearing.
The two attorneys have also hosted fundraisers for Democratic members of Congress, including a dinner for Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Well if that doesn’t make his story smell even more like a rat…