A former vaccine expert with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleges in a whistleblower complaint that he was ousted because his efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic conflicted with those of President Donald Trump and other administration officials.
In the complaint filed Tuesday, Dr. Rick Bright cites “his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency” as reasons for his ousting. He also said he pushed to discuss the health risks of medicinal treatments promoted by Trump as possible cures for COVID-19.
Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, was demoted to a position with the National Institutes of Health late last month. The complaint asserts this move was “clearly a retaliatory demotion” and requests for Bright to be reinstated with HHS.
HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley issued a statement refuting Bright’s characterization of his demotion and the department’s motivations, saying that he was transferred to a job with the National Institutes of Health to work on developing diagnostic testing for the coronavirus.
“We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor,” Oakley said.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, has said she will hold a hearing into Bright’s complaint next week.
The PBS NewsHour’s Meredith Lee reported for this story.