Rick Bright, a top government vaccine scientist who warned earlier this year that the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response had been politicized, took to CNN on Thursday to blast the President’s messaging on COVID-19 as “reckless and deadly.”
On Tuesday, Bright resigned from his post at the National Institutes of Health. 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.
During an interview on CNN’s “The Lead” on Thursday, Bright ripped Trump’s “don’t be afraid of COVID” assertion that was issued shortly before the President’s departure from Walter Reed on Monday following his COVID-19 treatment at the military hospital.
“The messaging that President Trump gave to America and the world when he left the hospital about there is no need to be afraid of this virus is probably the most reckless and deadly piece of information I have ever heard,” Bright said.
Bright also took aim at Trump’s “irresponsible and reckless” suggestions of a COVID-19 vaccine approval in time for the November presidential election.
“He’s mentioned it on numerous occasions, that he wants the vaccine before the election,” Bright said. “There’s no rationale in scientific judgment to move that vaccine to meet that target date. He is not a scientist. He’s not a doctor. I say let the scientists do their job.”
Bright dismissed the notion of Trump rushing the approval of a COVID-19 as a sound effort to save lives.
“That’s not true. Not at all,” Bright said. “The scientists are working at breakneck speeds. It is unprecedented to see how fast they’re moving through the steps. One step you cannot rush is the safety evaluation of that vaccine after it’s put into people. It takes time.”
When asked about the country’s appalling COVID-19 infection and fatality rate, which currently stands at more than 200,000 Americans dying from the infectious disease, Bright attributed that to “failed leadership” and “a reluctance to admit there was a problem.”
“Because of a reluctance to tell America the truth. Because of a reluctance to take critical actions upfront,” Bright said.
Bright added that he was “disgusted” to hear Vice President Mike Pence tout that the administration placed a travel ban from China in January as part of the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response during the VP debate on Wednesday night.
“That is the only thing they actually talked about that they ever did. That alone was so insufficient to get in front of this virus,” Bright said. “They don’t recognize that many people, hundreds of thousands of people were already coming into our country with this virus. So, that one small travel ban, that’s the only thing they hold out that they did, was not enough.”
Watch Bright’s remarks below:
"It's irresponsible and reckless for the President of the [US] to drive the evaluation of something as critical as a vaccine to meet an election timeline," Rick Bright tells @jaketapper.
"He is not a scientist. He's not a doctor. I say, let the scientists do their job." pic.twitter.com/6Ri2CrfLLZ
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) October 8, 2020