House COVID Committee Probing Reports That Caputo Pressured CDC To Alter Case Data

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 6: House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., attends a news conference in the Capitol on the Voting Rights Advancement Act on Friday, December 6, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) attends a news conference in the Capitol on the Voting Rights Advancement Act on December 6, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The House’s COVID-19 response subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), sent Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chief Robert Redfield information requests on Monday. The move comes in response to growing reports that the HHS’ top brass tampered scientific reports on COVID-19, including the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR), for President Donald Trump’s political benefit.

Former Trump campaign member and current HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo, along with his scientific adviser, were reportedly involved in the pressure scheme as well.

In a letter to Azar and Redfield first obtained by Politico, the committee listed multiple reports of various senior HHS staffers suppressing or altering the CDC’s scientific data and guidelines to give cover to Trump, who’s been downplaying the pandemic and demanding that states allow businesses and schools to reopen to rescue his chances of reelection in November.

“Blatant political interference in CDC’s reports on the coronavirus outbreak appears to be just one element in the Trump Administration’s all-out strategy to, in the President’s words, ‘play it down,'” the committee told Azar and Redfield, referring to reporter Bob Woodward’s bombshell report on Trump privately admitting to artificially minimizing the pandemic.

“Given the crucial and pressing need for truthful scientific information during this ongoing public health crisis,” the committee wrote, “the Select Subcommittee is seeking to determine the scope of political interference with CDC’s scientific reports and other efforts to combat the pandemic, the impact of this interference on CDC’s mission, whether this interference is continuing, and the steps that Congress may need to take to stop it before more Americans die needlessly.”

The backlash to Woodward’s report follows a string of scandals over the HHS’ handling of the pandemic, which has included ordering the CDC to transfer hospital data directly to the HHS and stifling the agency’s report that asserted hydroxychloroquine, Trump’s miracle drug for COVID-19, was not proven to effectively treat the virus and could be dangerous.

The HHS and CDC did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: