Whistleblower Who Criticized White House’s COVID Response Resigns From NIH

Dr. Rick Bright testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on May 14, 2019, in Washington, DC. - Bright filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed in April 2020 from his post as h... Dr. Rick Bright testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on May 14, 2019, in Washington, DC. - Bright filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed in April 2020 from his post as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the agency charged with developing a vaccine against coronavirus.He said he was removed for opposing the use of malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus, a treatment promoted by President Donald Trump despite little scientific evidence of success. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 7, 2020 11:58 a.m.

Rick Bright, a top government vaccine scientist who warned earlier this year that the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response had been politicized, resigned from his post at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday.

The New York Times first reported Bright’s resignation.

Last spring, Bright was demoted from his post as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and reassigned to a narrower role at NIH. In an extensive whistleblower complaint, Bright alleged that his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that his caution against the use of the Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 led to his removal.

Bright also told reporters during a call at the time that the Trump administration had put “politics and cronyism ahead of science.” Bright argued that rather than invest in “safe and scientifically vetted solutions,” it had pursued “drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.”

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In a letter written on Sept. 25 to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the institutes, Bright wrote that he longs to “serve the American people by using my skills to fight this pandemic,” and that “taxpayers who pay my salary deserve no less.”

In an addendum to his complaint released by Bright’s attorneys on Tuesday, Bright is resigning from his federal government post after being “sidelined” at NIH.

“Although not allowed at NIH to utilize his expertise in vaccines or therapeutics, Dr. Bright developed a plan to implement a robust national testing infrastructure, which emphasized the critical need to provide screening tests for asymptomatic individuals and to provide services to underserved populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Bright’s attorneys, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in a statement.

Bright’s attorneys wrote that NIH leadership declined to support Bright’s recommendations due to “political considerations, plain and simple.”

“After having his work suppressed for political reasons to the detriment of public health and safety, Dr. Bright was sidelined from doing any further work to combat this deadly virus,” Bright’s attorneys wrote, adding that “this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back” given how “he can no longer countenance working for an administration that puts politics over science to the great detriment of the American people.”

Bright’s attorneys added that Bright has been assigned “no meaningful work” since September 4, 2020, after he had completed one assignment given to him at NIH, and “has been idle for weeks.”

“Having exhausted all efforts, on October 6, 2020, Dr. Bright submitted his involuntary resignation,” Bright’s attorneys wrote.

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