Another war of words has erupted in Washington—this one over the printed page, Politico reports. Insiders say the health department's political appointees are demanding the right to edit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly COVID-19 updates, but the CDC is pushing back, and the mood is ugly. "CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration," an appointee wrote in one clash, urging CDC Director Robert Redfield to alter two reports that might damage President Trump's move to reopen schools. "CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening. ... Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear." But the CDC has only allowed delays and altered phrases thus far.
The push began after Michael Caputo became spokesperson for the Health and Human Services department in April. An ex-Trump campaign official with no scientific training, he leads a team that has tried to kill CDC reports—and delayed one that criticized the use of a malaria drug promoted by Trump with scant evidence. The CDC is holding its ground but increasingly lets Caputo's team go over reports before publication. "Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic—not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC," says Caputo. But public health experts say they're alarmed by any attempt to alter scientifically vetted data. Yahoo News reports that an Emory University professor calls it "incredibly concerning." (Read more COVID-19 stories.)