Last Sunday, on the CBS News show 60 Minutes, I was shaken by a report by Scott Pelley in which the Trump administration cut funding to a key scientist researching the cause and cure for the coronavirus.
His name is Peter Daszak, and his job involves working with Chinese research officials in Wuhan, China, the area of the first outbreak.
“Daszak,” Pelley explains, “is a British-born American Ph.D. who’s spent a career discovering dangerous viruses in wildlife, especially bats.
“In 2003, in Malaysia, he warned 60 Minutes a pandemic was coming. … In the 17 years since that prophecy, Peter Daszak became president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance.
“ ‘We’re a nonprofit research organization,’ Daszak tells Pelley, ‘that focuses on understanding where the pandemics come from, what’s the risk of future pandemics and can we get in between this pandemic and the next one and disrupt it and stop it.’
“In China, EcoHealth has worked for 15 years with the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Pelley explains. “Together they’ve cataloged hundreds of bat viruses, research that is critical right now.”
“ ‘The breakthrough drug, Remdesivir, that seems to have some impact on COVID-19, was actually tested against the viruses we discovered under our NIH research funding,’ Daszak says.
“ ‘And so that testing would not have been possible —‘ Pelley asks.
“ ‘No, it would not.’
“ ‘ —if it hadn’t been for the work that you did with the NIH grant?’
“But his funding from the NIH, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was killed, two weeks ago,” Pelley says, “by a political disinformation campaign targeting China’s Wuhan Institute.”
“On April 14, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China’s Wuhan Institute had, quote, ‘birthed a monster.’ Gaetz is a vigorous defender of the president,” Pelley adds.
In a poll conducted by the Pew organization (Apr. 8), three-in-ten Americans believe Covid-19 was created in a lab.
This is what happens when science and safety run into self-serving political bias.
At a critical time when medical experts and vaccine scientists are needed most to understand and develop vaccines for a virus that has infected more than one million Americans, officials like Dr. Rick Bright, the former director charged with developing countermeasures, are sidelined whenever they challenge the President on his public statements. Bright had the temerity to question the use of a drug Trump touted, Hydroxychloroquine, which Bright explained, requires randomized testing before widespread use, the same protocol for most drugs.
On Wednesday, the President challenged the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, who testified on Tuesday to a Senate committee, warning senators of possible consequences of moving too quickly to reopen schools and businesses.
“I think we better be careful,” Dr. Fauci said, “if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects. But I am very careful and hopefully humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease. And that’s why I’m very reserved in making broad predictions.”
“I was surprised by his answer,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “To me, it’s not an acceptable answer.”
What is not acceptable is a president who continues to place political expediency above finding a vaccine for a killer virus that is responsible for more than 84,000 fatalities in the U.S. and averages 2,000 deaths a day.
What is not acceptable is a majority of Senate and House Republicans aligning with Trump because they lack the political courage to stand up for the health and safety of Americans.
However, Wyoming Representative Lynn Cheney is not one of them. In a tweet, she wrote:
“Dr. Fauci is one of the finest public servants we have ever had. He is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives. We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day.”
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 13, 2020
In the last three years, the U.S. has enjoyed a robust economy, something the president intends to run on in his upcoming campaign. However, the effects of Covid-19 have created unemployment numbers that have reached levels not seen since the Great Depression.
During his Tuesday night broadcast, Fox host Tucker Carlson said of Fauci, “This is just buffoon-level stuff at that point. We’re not doing this to mock the guy. Anybody who talks as much as Anthony Fauci does on television … is apt to say some stupid things. The point is, is this the guy into whom you want to vest all of your trust? Is this the guy you want to chart the future of the country? Maybe not.”
On Carlson’s show, Representative Matt Gaetz said, “The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.”
“There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab,” Pelley points out. “But the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room.”
“ ‘Does the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to your knowledge, have this virus in its inventory?’ Pelley asks Daszak.
“ ‘Why do you say so?”
“ ‘The closest known relative,’ Daszak says, “is one that’s different enough that it is not SARS-CoV-2. So, there’s just no evidence that anybody had it in the lab anywhere in the world prior to the outbreak.”
In a May 14 poll conducted by CBS News, 62 percent of Americans trust Dr. Fauci compared to 38 percent who do not. The same poll reports that 57 percent believe Trump is doing a “bad job” in handling the virus compared to 66 percent who say that their state governors are doing a “good job.”
Perhaps the most disturbing news comes from an interview in an April 23 poll.
“Lynn Sanchez of Jacksonville, Texas, is among those who back Trump despite reservations about his credibility. Sanchez, who identifies as a political independent, said she trusts ‘only a little’ of what the president says about the crisis, but believes he’s ‘doing the best he can.’
“He’s contradicted his own health experts a couple of times,” Sanchez says. “I believe he gets carried away and doesn’t sit down and think things through.”
According to The Washington Post (May 15), the “The Lancet, the oldest and one of the most respected medical journals has “concluded that Trump should be replaced. ‘Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.’ ”
Contradicts, doesn’t listen, ignores advice, spreads misinformation, doesn’t think things through:
Is this acceptable to you? Because it’s not to me.