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April 23, 2020 – “Removing Dr. Bright in the midst of a pandemic would raise serious concerns under any circumstances, but his allegations that political considerations influenced this decision heighten those concerns and demand full accountability.”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) today requesting an investigation into the recent dismissal of Dr. Rick Bright from his central role responding to the coronavirus pandemic, allegedly for political reasons. 

“I have been particularly concerned by the Trump Administration’s politicization of public health agencies,” Pallone wrote to OIG.  “This most recent action, if true, further raises serious questions about the commitment of President Trump and his Administration to science and the public good as the government and the nation work to combat an unprecedented global health pandemic.”

Bright was reportedly dismissed this week as the Director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and reassigned to a “narrower” position at the National Institutes of Health.  In a statement, Dr. Bright alleged that he was reassigned because he refused to bend to political pressure and use taxpayer resources to fund the use of unproven and potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, that President Trump has publicly promoted for treating COVID-19.

“Removing Dr. Bright in the midst of a pandemic would raise serious concerns under any circumstances, but his allegations that political considerations influenced this decision heighten those concerns and demand full accountability,” Pallone continued.

“Dr. Bright will reportedly be requesting that your office ‘investigate the manner in which this administration has politicized the work of BARDA and has pressured me and other conscientious scientists to fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit,’” Pallone concluded.  “In addition to accepting his request, I urge you to investigate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Bright’s reassignment.”

In urging an investigation, Pallone requested that OIG look into the following questions:

  • Were all relevant federal laws and regulations followed in Dr. Bright’s reassignment, and did any prohibited personnel practices occur;
  • Who made the decision to reassign Dr. Bright, and when was the decision made, including when was Dr. Bright notified of such decision;
  • What reasons were given to justify Dr. Bright’s reassignment; and
  • Did political considerations affect the decision to reassign Dr. Bright, including Dr. Bright’s actions and statements related to chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine?

To read the letter, click HERE.