America's fight against the coronavirus has been hindered by incompetence and corruption, according to the ousted head of the government unit in charge of preparing for pandemics. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, filed a whistleblower complaint Tuesday, alleging that he was demoted for trying to "prioritize science and safety over political expediency," USA Today reports. In the complaint, Bright repeats his allegation that he was forced out last month for resisting the administration's push to make hydroxycholoroquine, a drug touted by President Trump, widely available to treat COVID-19. In his complaint, Bright says the administration wanted to "flood" New York and New Jersey with the drug, using supplies from non-FDA-approved facilities in India and Pakistan.
Bright says he tried to raise the alarm about the coronavirus in January and called for urgent work on a vaccine and stockpiling of protective equipment, but he "encountered resistance" from senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Washington Post reports. Bright says he wants his job back and a full investigation, the AP reports. He says the issues he filed the complaint about were a problem even before the pandemic, with officials pressuring him to buy supplies from companies linked to the administration. "Time after time I was pressured to ignore or dismiss expert scientific recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections," he says. "In other words, I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government." (Read more coronavirus stories.)