Reprinted with permission from Alternet
In a deeply reported Wall Street Journal piece on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, a bombshell detail buried in the story cast light on President Donald Trump's own disastrous instincts.
According to the report, Trump wanted to fire Dr. Nancy Messonnier — the official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who first shared the gravity of the pandemic with the American people.
On Feb. 25, after Trump had spent a month downplaying the outbreak and defending China's honesty in its response, Messonnier sent a clear signal about just how bad things could get.
"We expect we will see community spread in this country," she said. "The disruption to everyday life might be severe."
This statement rocked the stock market. That day, the Dow dropped 800 points, the beginning of a massive downward slide we still haven't recovered from.
She was, of course, right. But Azar tried to walk her concerns back, saying the virus was "contained" — which it quite clearly wasn't. Since that time, there have been many accusations recriminations about how institutions responded to the early days of the pandemic, particularly the media and the Trump administration. But while the case of the media is complicated, the failures of the Trump administration — especially Trump himself — to warn the public are undeniable.
Trump was "furious" about Messonnier's comments, the Journal reported, and he "called Mr. Azar and threatened to oust Dr. Messonnier." She has been sidelined since.
The episode is deeply concerning, as it highlights the amount of pressure other officials must feel to hew to the president's preferred narrative. On the same day the Journal's piece was published, another Trump administration doctor said that he had been ousted from two top positions because he was critical of the president's preferred and still unproven drug to treat COVID-19. Given how often Trump has lied to and misled the country, and how important dissent is in government, this trend portends poorly for the security of the country as the pandemic continues.
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