Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dr. Rick Bright listens during a House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing on March 8, 2018. (Photo: Bloomberg/ via Getty Images)

Dr. Rick Bright listens during a House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing on March 8, 2018. (Photo: Bloomberg/ via Getty Images)

Laying 'Tens of Thousands of Preventable Deaths' at the Foot of Trump Failures, Top US Health Official Resigns in Protest

"Nine months into the pandemic, the United States continues to grapple with failed White House leadership," writes whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright in public resignation letter.

Jon Queally

In a direct and outspoken protest over President Donald Trump's deadly and failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic over the last nine months, government whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright on Wednesday publicly announced his resignation from the National Institute of Health as he chastized a White House that "suffers from widespread internal chaos" and warned the United States, due to lack of leadership, is now "flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history."

Bright, who until April of 2020 served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, first came forward to denounce the administration in May after he says he was removed from his post over voiced objections to how Trump and other political officials within HHS were mishandling the pandemic in the early weeks and months of the outbreak.

"Public health and safety have been jeopardized by the administration's hostility to the truth and by its politicization of the pandemic response, undoubtedly leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths," Bright wrote in a statement published Wednesday afternoon by the Washington Post. "For that reason, and because the administration has in effect barred me from working to fight the pandemic, I resigned on Tuesday from the National Institutes of Health."

Despite best efforts by some, he continued, "there is still no coordinated national strategy to end the pandemic. Federal agencies, staffed with some of the best scientists in the world, continue to be politicized, manipulated and ignored."

As the Guardian reports:

Bright's departure comes as it was revealed that the head of the Centers for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, had been encouraged to expose the "slaughter" resulting from the Trump administration's "political interference" in the coronavirus response by William Foege—the US epidemiologist who devised the global strategy to eradicate smallpox and is also a former director of the CDC.

In his letter to Redfield, Foege wrote that despite "White House spin attempts, this will go down as a colossal failure of the public health system of this country." He further called the pandemic "the biggest challenge in a century," but said it was clear that the CDC "let the country down."

While Bright's criticism of the administration, the Guardian noted, has been well-documented for months "and discounted by the White House as sour grapes, Foege is regarded in US public health circles as a towering figure."

Taken together, the now public criticism from such high-level experts like Bright and Foege within the national public health establishment serve as the latest indictment of Trump's mishandling of the crisis—even as the president battles his own Covid-19 infection—just weeks before the November election.

Read Dr. Bright's full statement, as published at the Post, below:

Of all the tools required for an effective U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, one that is sorely missing is the truth. Public health guidance on the pandemic response, drafted by career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been repeatedly overruled by political staff appointed by the Trump administration. Career scientists throughout the Department of Health and Human Services hesitate to push back when science runs counter to the administration’s unrealistically optimistic pronouncements.

Public health and safety have been jeopardized by the administration’s hostility to the truth and by its politicization of the pandemic response, undoubtedly leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths. For that reason, and because the administration has in effect barred me from working to fight the pandemic, I resigned on Tuesday from the National Institutes of Health.

Until April, I had for almost four years been director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. When I strongly objected this past spring to the Trump administration’s insistence that BARDA support widespread access to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two potentially dangerous drugs recklessly promoted by President Trump as a covid-19 cure, I was shunted to the NIH and assigned a more limited role in the pandemic response.

My task at the NIH was to help launch a program expanding national covid-19 testing capacity. The program is well underway, and should reach nearly 1 million daily tests by the end of the year. Since early September, though, I was given no work; my services apparently were no longer needed.

I fear the benefits of dramatically improved testing capacity will be wasted unless it is a part of a coordinated national testing strategy. My recommendations to support a national plan were met with a tepid response. In an administration that suffers from widespread internal chaos, such coordination may be impossible — especially when the White House has seemed determined to slow down testing and not test people who might have asymptomatic infections.

From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the administration’s failure to respond with a coordinated strategy only heightened the danger. Now the nation, and the world, are in the worst public health crisis in over a century. More than 1 million people worldwide have died from the pandemic; more than 211,000 Americans are dead. More than half of the states in this country are reporting rising covid-19 cases. Nine months into the pandemic, the United States continues to grapple with failed White House leadership. Instead, we get the recent spectacle of the president exploiting his own illness for political purposes and advising the nation, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.” Ironically, he was only able to leave the hospital after receiving two treatments that I had pushed for in January.

Meanwhile, there is still no coordinated national strategy to end the pandemic. Federal agencies, staffed with some of the best scientists in the world, continue to be politicized, manipulated and ignored.

The country is flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history. Undoubtedly, millions more Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and influenza; many thousands will die. Now, more than ever before, the public needs to be able to rely on honest, non-politicized and unmanipulated public health guidance from career scientists.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·


With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo