Covid-19 Whistleblower Allegedly Still Facing Retaliation From Trump Administration

Covid-19 Whistleblower Allegedly Still Facing Retaliation From Trump Administration
Photo:Shawn Thew/Pool via AP

Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, has alleged that he is experiencing further retaliation from the Trump administration after coming forward to reveal shortcomings in the United States’ response to the covid-19 virus. According to a complaint Dr. Bright filed with a federal watchdog agency, not only has he has been sidelined in his new role at the National Institutes of Health, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is attempting to undermine him in his new duties.

The pressure is coming straight from the top, the complaint said, with President Donald Trump calling Bright an “angry, disgruntled employee” and setting the tone for a campaign of “public disparagement” to “unnerve and intimidate” him.

The complaint alleges that the agency’s new acting director, Dr. Gary Disbrow, has been warning Bright’s former colleagues to stay away from him in an attempt to further sideline the doctor.

The complaint said Disbrow had explained that Azar “was very angry with Dr. Bright and was ‘on the war path.’ (Disbrow) explained that Secretary Azar directed HHS employees to refrain from doing anything that would help Dr. Bright be successful in his new role.”

The agency that Bright used to lead within the department of Health and Human Services was focused on counteracting infectious diseases and bioterrorism. In that role, Bright was responsible for overseeing at least 200 projects. In his new role, he’s only responsible for five to eight total projects.

Bright, a vaccine expert, was supposed to be working on virus diagnostic tests in his new job at NIH. But he “is cut off from all vaccine work, cut off from all therapeutic work, and has a very limited role in the diagnostic work,” said the complaint. “His extremely narrow role is confined to making contracts with diagnostics companies that have already developed diagnostics, to scale up their production.”

Bright was ousted from his role at the Department of Health and Human Services in April after refusing to promote chloroquine as a potential covid-19 treatment. In May, he testified before Congress and revealed that the department had been dismissive of concerns raised by him and others in the medical supply industry in early 2020 that the United States was not prepared for the covid-19 pandemic. By now it’s more than clear that Dr. Bright was right—the U.S. was not at all prepared to combat the covid-19 pandemic, and hundreds, if not thousands of lives could have potentially been saved if the administration had heeded his warnings.

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