President Trump late Sunday accused CBS’ “60 Minutes” of putting the spotlight on another “Fake Whistleblower” who wants to inflict damage on his administration's coronavirus response in order to benefit the "Radical Left Democrats."
Rick Bright, who has a Ph.D. in virology and ran the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, reiterated earlier claims that the government was slow to respond to the unfolding pandemic and said the administration was instead worried about politics instead of science. He blamed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar of not heeding an early warning about the virus.
Bright told the show that there was a Jan. 23 meeting where he was the only person in the room who said, "We're going to need vaccines and diagnostics and drugs. It's going to take a while and we need to get started."
Bright told Norah O’Donnell, the "60 Minutes" correspondent, that his resistance to Trump’s push of hydroxychloroquine was what ultimately cost him his position at the agency.
“I believe my last-ditch effort to protect Americans from that drug was the final straw that they used and believed was essential to push me out,” he said.
Bright told the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week that the nation could face “the darkest winter in modern history” if the virus rebounds.
"We don't yet have a national strategy to respond fully to this pandemic," he told O'Donnell. "The best scientists that we have in our government who are working really hard to try to figure this out aren't getting that clear, cohesive leadership, strategic plan message yet. Until they get that, it's still gonna be chaotic."
Trump was quick to lash out against the criticism. He said this “whole whistleblower racket” needs to be “looked at very closely” because it is “causing great injustice & harm.”
Trump has had famous run-ins with whistleblowers, including the one who made a complaint about Trump’s July 25, 2017, phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which almost cost him his presidency, and another whistleblower behind an unfavorable book about his leadership called “A Warning.”
Trump has been quick to defend his administration over its COVID-19 response and said an early travel ban with China played a major role in limiting early disease transmission.
Trump said the famed program and O’Donnell “are doing everything in their power to demean our Country, much to the benefit of the Radical Left Democrats. Tonight they put on yet another Fake “Whistleblower”, a disgruntled employee who supports Dems, fabricates stories & spews lies.”
He called the “60 Minutes” report “incorrect, “which they couldn’t care less about. I don’t know this guy, never met him, but don’t like what I see. How can a creep like this show up to work tomorrow & report to @SecAzar, his boss, after trashing him on T.V.”
"60 Minutes" did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News for comment.
Bright was removed from his BARDA position in April and reassigned to a post at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but he has yet to show up at that post. HHS denied Bright’s claim that he was unfairly demoted, and blamed him of “politicizing the response” to the virus. HHS told “60 Minutes” that it was Bright who made the request for an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine.
“Bright was transferred from his role as BARDA director to lead a bold new $1 billion testing program at NIH, critical to saving lives and reopening America,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement last week. “Mr. Bright has not yet shown up for work, but continues to collect his $285,010 salary, while using his taxpayer-funded medical leave to work with partisan attorneys who are politicizing the response to COVID-19.”
Bright's lawyers told CNN that he intends to report to that job next week.
"Contrary to administration talking points, Dr. Bright has never refused to report to NIH, and now that his position there has been identified, he plans to begin next week," the attorneys said. "Dr. Bright is fully prepared to step into this new role unless Secretary Azar honors OSC's request and grants a stay of his reassignment."
Azar hit back Thursday, slamming Bright's testimony as "yet another attack on President Trump" laden with "disproven, unfounded allegations."
"The president literally did what Bright is saying should be done," Azar told "The Story." "This guy was singing in a choir back then of everybody. We were all singing the same tune, and now he's trying to claim that he was a soloist."
Fox News' Yael Hanlon, Morgan Phillips and the Associated Press contributed to this report.