Chairman Neal Calls on HHS to Release Details on Editorial Process Following Reports of Unprecedented Political Meddling in Public Health Analysis

Sep 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Following alarming reports that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) improperly interfered with COVID-19-related reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) demanded HHS Secretary Alex Azar shed light on the situation and provide the Committee with detailed information on relevant publication processes. Neal asked for reports on what, if any, directive HHS received from the White House, as well as the names and titles of any HHS political appointees involved in the publication of the reports in question and their contributions during the editorial process.  

“As the nation continues to grapple with the devastating consequences of this pandemic, any Administration action to manipulate or suppress critical public health information is unconscionable, as it has the potential to increase the risk of COVID-19-related harm,” emphasized Chairman Neal. “As you know, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series has long served as a critical tool to inform state and local public health officials, health care providers, researchers, and the general public about infectious diseases and other ongoing public health developments —regardless of the political party of the Administration in charge.”

Neal continued: “This decades-long legacy of being a source of objective, life-saving scientific data, no matter the political party of the Administration, should continue to be a source of pride for the CDC. As such, it is deeply troubling to learn about potential HHS political appointee interference that appears to be watering down the CDC’s scientific analysis of COVID-19 risks and spread and further delaying public release of critical data…Unfortunately, these reported actions fit within a troubling pattern of poor judgment this Administration continues to exercise in responding to this pandemic, including tailoring the facts to fit a desired narrative and playing down the severity of the risks of COVID-19 to various populations.”

Chairman Neal requested answers to a series of questions regarding COVID-related Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports by September 22, 2020.

Read the Chairman’s full letter HERE.