Wyden, Merkley Call for Investigation into Political Interference with Coronavirus Information

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today called for an immediate investigation into allegations of political interference with public health information at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The letter from Wyden, Merkley and 28 colleagues to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector Generalfollows alarming reports of widespread and ongoing political interference in the agencies’ COVID-19 response. Those include reports that the White House pressured the CDC into downplaying risks associated with children returning to in-person learning at schools, Secretary Alex Azar revoked the FDA’s ability to regulate lab-developed diagnostic tests, and HHS political appointees reviewed and may have altered or delayed weekly scientific reports issued by CDC about the pandemic.

“In the midst of a pandemic that has now claimed over 200,000 lives in the United States alone, the American people rely on the expertise of our federal agencies to keep them safe,” the senators wrote. “Our communities, schools, health care providers, businesses, and families turn to agencies like the CDC and FDA for guidance on how to make important decisions: when people should get tested, how to protect children at home or in the classroom and workers on the job, and which treatments to use to save a life. 

The consistent pattern running through these reports of political interference is the ongoing effort to minimize the seriousness of the virus,” they wrote. “This message directly harms millions of Americans and jeopardizes public trust in science and our COVID-19 response. To safeguard the health and well-being of all Americans during this ongoing pandemic, we ask that you immediately open an investigation into political interference with the scientific work done by experts at HHS.”

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter led by U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also was signed by U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ed Markey (D-MA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Full text of the letter is here.