White House Reportedly Looking to Can Health Chief

Trump reportedly displeased with HHS secretary Alex Azar's handling of pandemic
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2020 6:11 AM CDT
HHS Chief May Be on His Way Out
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a visit to the GE Healthcare manufacturing facility Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Madison, Wis.   (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

(Newser) – Joining the millions upon millions of Americans in the unemployment line may soon be the Cabinet secretary partly responsible for heading up the response to the pandemic that sent them there in the first place. The White House is weighing kicking HHS Secretary Alex Azar to the curb over his handling of the coronavirus, Politico reports, citing four insiders. The Wall Street Journal backs up the report, though it notes the White House's reluctance to replace a Cabinet member in the middle of a public health crisis. The official White House response: "The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities. Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19.”

That said, West Wing frustration has mounted over reports that Azar urged Trump to act on the virus in January and was ignored, as well as Azar's ouster of vaccine expert Rick Bright, who in turn filed a whistleblower complaint. Among Azar's rumored replacements: White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, Medicare head Seema Verma, and deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan. As for Azar: "Secretary Azar is busy responding to a global, public health crisis and doesn’t have time for palace intrigue," an HHS rep tells the Journal. (Read more Alex Azar stories.)

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