Biden campaign fact-checked on ‘false’ claim CDC official silenced during coronavirus outbreak

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is being called out for claiming that President Trump had "silenced" an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who early on spoke of the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.

A video posted by Biden's campaign Twitter account features Ron Klain, the Obama administration's Ebola response coordinator, who said that "anyone who raised an alarm about this, a red flag, was silenced," referring specifically to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who addressed the seriousness of the problem on Feb. 25 in a phone briefing.

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"Starting the next day, Dr. Messonnier no longer appeared at public briefings of the White House coronavirus task force," Klain says in the video. "The president and the White House sent a clear message to scientists in the government --- there would be a price for speaking out and speaking up."

The Washington Post called this claim "false" and gave it "Four Pinocchios," pointing out that this was "simply wrong" in their Fact Checker column. While noting that Trump was reportedly unhappy with how Messonnier's words affected the market, the Post's Glenn Kessler pointed out that moving forward Trump had Messonier's superior, CDC principal deputy director Anne Schuchat, at briefings, even though Schuchat had previously relayed a message similar to what Messonier had said.

This, Kessler pointed out, was consistent with other steps Trump took to address the seriousness of the matter: holding briefings at the White House instead of the Department of Health and Human Services and putting Vice President Pence in charge of the coronavirus task force, which had been run by Health Secretary Alex Azar.

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Meanwhile, Messonier continued to do phone briefings.

The Biden campaign defended the video to the Post, stating that Messonier "no longer appeared at public briefings of the White House coronavirus task force," and referring to a comment from former CDC director Thomas Frieden, who told the New York Times that the administration "silenced" Messonier for speaking the truth.