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Trump 'muzzling' scientists and spreading misinformation amid pandemic unlike Bush and Obama, analysis shows

To see how things have changed since Trump took over as the President, the analysts compared the current CDC press events with the past
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump is doing something that his previous counterparts did not -- suppressing scientists. Since the pandemic took off, Donald Trump has taken the centerstage, sidelining experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists​​.

"The current administration’s approach to Covid-19 strongly diverges from the ways that the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations responded to some of the worst public health crises in their tenures, the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic in 2009, respectively," Anita Desikan, a research analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists​, wrote in a blog post. Under Trump's leadership, the CDC is not at the forefront and is no longer announcing recommendations. What is more, the Trump administration is also resorting to silencing scientists.

"By muzzling top scientists and health professionals, our government is depriving all of us of critical scientific information, just when we need it most to protect the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones," she added. In contrast, Presidents Bush and Obama made statements backed by science. "We have to make sure that we recognize that how we respond -- intelligently, systematically, based on science and what public health officials have to say -- will determine in large part what happens," Obama said in 2009. 

'We have to make sure that we recognize that how we respond—intelligently, systematically, based on science, and what public health officials have to say,' Obama said in 2009 (Getty Images)

To see how things have changed since Trump took over as the President, the analysts compared the current CDC press events with the past. The Health agency held 18 press briefings during SARS and 32 during H1N1. Bush and Obama, on the other hand, held three such events at that time. During the Covid-19 crisis, Trump held three times as many press briefings as the CDC. Desikan, however, added that communication from the White House is crucial, but it should not be done at the expense of communication from CDC experts in a public health crisis.

The report also suggests that scientists may be asked to agree with the President. Desikan said that CDC Director Robert Redfield partially walked back on his own statement on the possibility of a more severe wave of the epidemic this winter after receiving a direct request from Trump. The analysis comes as Trump continues to peddle misinformation and contradict experts. He proposed injecting dangerous disinfectants into the human body. He also endorsed an unproven antimalarial drug called hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19, even after experts said it could damage the heart.  Studies examining the drug also showed poor results.

Recently, he told reporters he has been taking the drug to prevent the infection. "I'm taking it for about a week and a half now and I'm still here, I'm still here," he said, adding that he was providing evidence to show that the drug has positive benefits. Reacting to this, Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, told BBC News, "People that follow the president's example might not only endanger themselves but could also deprive patients with chronic autoimmune conditions of their much-needed medication."