Current and former health officials, physicians, and scientific experts sign letter denouncing White House attacks on NIAID director
Nearly 3,500 of the nation’s leading public health experts are speaking out against White House attacks on National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and are calling on President Donald Trump not to sideline science or scientists as the country continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic. The signers include two former Commissioners of the Food and Drug Administration, two former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, a former Surgeon General, several leading medical journal editors, and hundreds of the nation’s most prominent physicians, researchers, and public health experts.
The open letter to President Trump was drafted by former FDA Associate Commissioner Dr. Peter Lurie, now President of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and epidemiologist and longtime AIDS activist Gregg Gonsalves, now of Yale School of Public Health, who began circulating the open letter on Friday evening.
“This week and last, the White House mounted a campaign to discredit one of our nation’s leading scientific experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has advised six Presidents on epidemics from HIV to SARS, from Ebola to H1N1 influenza,” the letter reads. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has remained one of the world’s most trusted scientists on COVID-19, daily explaining in lay terms the complexity of an illness we still don’t fully understand. And he has done so by placing science front and center in the public discourse. Attempting to marginalize highly respected researchers such as Dr. Fauci is a dangerous distraction at a time when we most need voices like his.”
In mid-July, the White House circulated a set of talking points criticizing Dr. Fauci to journalists, and Trump administration trade advisor Peter Navarro penned an op-ed in USA Today claiming that Dr. Fauci was “wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” USA Today retroactively said that Navarro’s op-ed had claims that were misleading or lacked context, and thus did not meet the paper’s fact-checking standards. Though the White House eventually distanced itself from the Navarro op-ed, Dr. Fauci was not invited to participate in yesterday evening’s White House coronavirus briefing, the first since April.
Signatories to the open letter include former New England Journal of Medicine Editors Dr. Marcia Angell and Dr. Jerome Kassirer; current New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot and former Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett; former NBC News science and health correspondent Dr. Robert Bazell, now at Yale; American Public Health Association President Dr. Georges Benjamin; Dr. Luciana Borio, former Director for Medical and Biodefense Preparedness at the National Security Council; New York University bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan; former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former HHS Deputy Secretary William Corr, former CDC Director and current President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives Dr. Thomas Frieden; former EPA official and current Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University Dr. Lynn Goldman; former FDA Chief Scientist Jesse Goodman, now with Georgetown University; former FDA Commissioners Dr. Margaret Hamburg and Dr. Jane Henney; Dr. Shelley Hearne of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; The Lancet Editor-in-Chief Dr. Richard Horton; Ruth J. Katz of the Aspen Institute and former Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University; former CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan of Emory University; Yale cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz; former HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. Nicole Lurie; Federation of American Scientists President Dr. Ali Nouri; former HHS official Dr. Anand Parekh of the Bipartisan Policy Center; former JAMA Deputy Editor Dr. Drummond Rennie of the University of California San Francisco; former HHS General Counsel William Schultz; former Kansas Governor and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; former FDA Deputy Commissioner and current Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Dr. Joshua Sharfstein; and Editor-in-Chief of the Science family of journals Dr. H. Holden Thorp.
“As current and former public health officials, researchers, and public health professionals, we call on our political leaders, members of the media and all Americans to reject the sidelining of science, to speak out against the silencing of scientists, and to champion open and public scientific discussions of the issues facing our country as we struggle to make progress against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,” the letter continues. “For that, we need the clear voices of government experts, including Dr. Fauci, to be available to the American public without limitation. That is the only path that can bring success in our efforts to control the virus.”
“Science and scientists had been under relentless assault during the Trump administration before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that assault has not let up,” said Lurie of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We must reverse the administration’s hostility to science and certain scientists if we’re to deploy the public health measures and develop the treatments and vaccines that are our only hope for bringing the pandemic under control.”
“We have so much work to do to end the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the United States. We’ve seen too much death, too much economic devastation already. Public health and science offer us a way out, a way to vanquish this virus. But to do that we have to embrace the best science and scientists this country has to offer, not denigrate the very expertise that is vital to our survival at this moment,” said Gonsalves of Yale School of Public Health.
Contact Info: Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Richard Adcock (radcock[at]cspinet.org).