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The Pushing Aside of the CDC

Two former political appointees at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell the New York Times about how the White House pushed the agency aside during the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.

"Everyone wants to describe the day that the light switch flipped and the CDC was sidelined. It didn't happen that way," Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the CDC, says at the Times. "It was more of like a hand grasping something, and it slowly closes, closes, closes, closes until you realize that, middle of the summer, it has a complete grasp on everything at the CDC."

In September, the Times reported on emails that indicated that a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson and his science advisor sought to silence CDC officials, while Politico reported that political appointees at CDC sought to review and alter items in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.

McGowan and Amanda Campbell, a former deputy chief of staff at CDC, tell the Times that they tried to protect against political interference at the agency, but McGowan says that whenever the science contradicted the message the White House wanted to express, the political messaging won out.

"Damage has been done to the CDC that will take years to undo," McGowan adds at the Times. "And that's terrible to hear, because it happened under my time there."