President Donald Trump claimed during his daily coronavirus press briefing that he had not heard of Dr. Rick Bright who was removed from his position as director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
At the same press briefing, Trump got upset when CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang referred to Dr. Bright at “gifted.”
"Have you studied him? Have you reported on him?" — Trump takes umbrage after @weijia describes Dr. Bright, the HHS official who says he was ousted after he resisted Trump's hydroxychloroquine push, as "gifted" pic.twitter.com/tlSCQuBTQj— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 22, 2020
Dr. Bright told the New York Times that he was moved to the National Institutes of Health for questioning an unproven coronavirus treatment — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — which has been promoted by Trump:
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.
While I am prepared to look at all options and to think “outside the box” for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public.
I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed Covid-19 while under the supervision of a physician.
These drugs have potentially serious risks associated with them, including increased mortality observed in some recent studies in patients with Covid-19.
Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis.
I will request that the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services investigate the manner in which this administration has politicized the work of BARDA and has pressured me and other conscientious scientists to fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.
Stat reported on April 21 that Dr. Bright disagreed with Bob Kadlec, the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response.
Dr. Bright, who has devoted his career to vaccine development, noted that he had led BARDA since 2016:
My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe. To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Bright’s lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks plan to ask the Office of Special Counsel to put a hold on Dr. Bright’s termination from BARDA.