Maloney Grills Azar on Political Influence at HHS

Oct 3, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee of Oversight and Reform, today demanded answers from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar during a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus hearing on political interference and political influence at HHS.


During the hearing, the Congresswoman stated, “The news of [the President and First Lady’s] positive test results underscores the importance of testing asymptomatic individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.  We do not know who exposed the President to the virus, or who he may have exposed, but it is imperative that everyone who has come in contact with him get tested. Yet, on August 24, new guidance appeared on the CDC’s website stating that most asymptomatic people should not be tested even if they have been exposed to the virus. This guidance was directly contrary to the scientific consensus and it has since come to light that this change was not made by CDC scientists, but by the President’s political advisors, who edited the guidance over CDC’s objections.


“One federal official told the New York Times, ‘That was a doc that came from the top down, from the HHS and the task force” and said it ‘does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy.’”


When asked, Sec. Azar refused to answer who authorized the change in this guidance.


She then went on to ask the Secretary about the contracts awarded to public relations firms “to launch a coronavirus advertising campaign that is intended—according to the contract, ‘to defeat despair and inspire hope.’”


She continued, “Mr. Secretary, the reason so many people feel despair right now is because more than 207,000 people are dead. And this Administration’s response to this crisis has been worse than almost any other country. It would have been much more effective if President Trump had listened to the experts, if he had actually believed in science, or if he had come up with a real plan before today to combat this crisis. Instead, the Administration is pending more than a quarter of a billion dollars—in taxpayer funds—to make videos with senior officials and celebrities in a massive ad blitz right before the election.”


When asked if it was true that this advertising campaign was directed by President Trump and how these contracts were awarded, Sec. Azar once again refused to provide a clear answer.


These questions to Sec. Azar follow the Congresswoman’s joint investigation with Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy into the Trump Administration’s apparent misuse of taxpayer funds to pay for a partisan propaganda campaign disguised as a public health information campaign. The first document requests in the investigation were sent on September 10, 2020 to Sec. Azar and Fors Marsh Group. The members expanded this investigation on October 1 with document requests sent to Atlas Research and DD&T Group. You can read all the document requests here.


The Select Subcommittee released a staff analysis today that found at least 47 separate incidents of political interference in the Administration’s coronavirus response spanning from February through September 2020. You can read that document here.