Debacle for NY Times: Story on Ousted HHS Director Crumbles Quickly

April 26th, 2020 5:10 PM

It’s clear that nothing is more tempting for the New York Times than a juicy story portraying Donald Trump as corrupt or mad with power. That view was reinforced on Wednesday, when a report claimed that Rick Bright, the former top vaccine expert at the Department of Health and Human Services, was fired for opposing the use of hydroxychloroquine. The story crumbled quickly. 

According to an article written by Shelby Talcott, a media reporter for the Daily Caller website, Bright was supposedly fired for opposing use of the anti-malarial drug that has been touted by President Trump as a possible treatment for the coronavirus outbreak.

Times reporters Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman noted Bright asked that the Food and Drug Administration “issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for oral formulations of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate for the treatment of 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19)” in March.

In his “scorching” statement, Bright did not name Trump, but the tough wording made it clear he disagreed with the administration’s support for the medicine. Talcott noted that the request supported Bright’s explanation for being fired:

While I am prepared to look at all options and to think "outside the box" for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public.

I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 while under the supervision of a physician.

Meanwhile, Politico's Dan Diamond highlighted the HHS official's statement "that Bright played a role in acquiring malaria drugs for the Trump administration, even though it was worth noting "some federal officials have felt wrongly pressured by Trump's push." The FDA granted Bright’s request, Talcott stated, and the HHS “accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate” one day later.

Aside from the publicly available response from the FDA regarding Bright’s request, Politico reported that “three people with knowledge of HHS’ recent acquisition of tens of millions of doses of those drugs say that Bright had supported those acquisitions in internal communications.” According to the Daily Caller, a source said Bright “praised the move as a win for the health department.”

“If Bright opposed hydroxychloroquine, he certainly didn’t make that clear from his email -- quite the opposite,” stated one official who saw copies of relevant email exchanges, according to Politico. Haberman and Shear stated that Bright was “a polarizing figure” within the HHS, and a discussion regarding his removal began months earlier.

In a surprise twist, the Times reporters noted that Bright is being represented by the lawyers who defended Christine Blasey Ford. Debra Katz and Lisa Bank and are the same attorneys who pushed an unproven accusation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.