News & Politics

Fact-Check: Did HHS Really Put a Dog Breeder in Charge of Coronavirus Response?

Fact-Check: Did HHS Really Put a Dog Breeder in Charge of Coronavirus Response?
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks, with Vice President Mike Pence behind him, during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Fake news is all over the place today, as Donald Trump has been accused of recommending injecting disinfectant to destroy the coronavirus, despite never saying any such thing.

But the purveyors of fake news went overboard when describing the Health and Human Services chief of staff who headed up the coronavirus response of the department as “a dog breeder.”


Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”

Azar’s optimistic public pronouncement and choice of an inexperienced manager are emblematic of his agency’s oft-troubled response to the crisis. His HHS is a behemoth department, overseeing almost every federal public health agency in the country, with a $1.3 trillion budget that exceeds the gross national product of most countries.

Azar’s main fault was that he wasn’t as hysterical about the virus as most in the media. But hiring a dog breeder to run the department’s response to the pandemic? An “inexperienced manager”?

I think Reuters has gone to the dogs.

Dallas Morning News:

Yes, the chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services briefly owned a family business raising Labradoodles. But he’s also served three administrations in high level posts at HHS, the White House and the Pentagon.

Colleagues who hired Brian Harrison and served with him in government were appalled to see him disparaged Thursday as a mere “dog breeder,” as if Joe Exotic had catapulted from tiger king to head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The people who know, worked with, and hired Harrison went on the record to defend him, unlike his anonymous critics.

“This is so silly. He went home and worked in a family business,” said Jack Kalavritinos, who served with Harrison at HHS during the administrations of both George W. Bush and President Donald Trump, most recently as director for intergovernmental and external affairs, working on the opioid crisis and drug prices.

“Brian was a no-brainer pick,” said another colleague, Michael Reilly, who hired Harrison for his first job at HHS under Bush. “His private sector experience is irrelevant.…He was a complete known commodity who had extensive experience.”

As for Trump recommending that Americans inject disinfectant to kill the virus, he didn’t do that.


President Trump is being quoted out of context — as usual — by left-wingers on social media who are accusing him of suggesting injecting people with disinfectant as a way of curing coronavirus infections.

Trump used the word “inject,” but what he meant was using a process — which he left “medical doctors” to define — in which patients’ lungs might be cleared of the virus, given new knowledge about its response to light and other factors.

Trump was musing out loud, wondering what might work to cure people. That the media took the word “inject” completely out of context and applied to “disinfectant” is par for the course. Trump should know after more than 3 years that the truth doesn’t matter, facts don’t matter, honesty doesn’t matter in reporting on what he says and does.

Let’s hope some nincompoop American doesn’t try to inject disinfectant to kill the coronavirus, like the man who drank fish tank cleaner because it contained a small about of hydroxychloroquine.

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