News & Politics

Fake News: Trump Didn't Fire Vaccine Chief for Questioning Hydroxychloroquine

President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Washington, as he prepares to leave Washington for his annual August holiday at his New Jersey golf club. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

On Wednesday, The New York Times ran a story suggesting that President Donald Trump fired Dr. Rick Bright, an official leading the administration’s efforts to create a coronavirus vaccine because he questioned hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Other outlets also pushed the narrative. In truth, Bright championed the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus — and he hired the lawyers who represented Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford.

It appears Bright was fired for other reasons that have nothing to do with hydroxychloroquine — which has proven effective against COVID-19 in many cases when administered in conjunction with other drugs that minimize side-effects — but that Ford’s lawyers crafted this narrative as the perfect foil to attack Trump for firing him.

Dr. Bright, who served as director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), specifically asked the FDA to issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the emergency use of “oral formulations of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate for the treatment of 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).”

Yet Politico‘s Dan Diamond revealed that Bright celebrated the FDA approval of hydroxychloroquine in an internal email exchange.

“If Bright opposed hydroxychloroquine, he certainly didn’t make that clear from his email — quite the opposite,” an official who read the email exchange told Politico. One staffer who spoke to Diamond said Bright was fired for completely different reasons: “incompetence and insubordination.”

None of this prevented Bright from hiring Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, Ford’s lawyers in the Kavanaugh hearings.

Of course, Bright has announced he will file a whistleblower complaint. Apparently he and his lawyers think their narrative will prevail.

Trump denied ever having heard of Bright in his Wednesday coronavirus press briefing. “I never heard of him,” Trump said. “The guy says he was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. You’d have to hear the other side.”

At least part of that “other side” would mention that Bright has been transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet it appears many media outlets are rushing to champion Bright’s claims because they are a convenient cudgel with which to attack Trump. After all, left-leaning outlets pushed a very flawed study because it attacked hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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