Yesterday, 60 Minutes published a report showing how Rep. Matt Gaetz’s unsubstantiated claims about a U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant led the Trump Administration to cut federal funding for a well-respected research program dedicated to understanding and preventing pandemics.
“I think we are all in agreement that the Chinese government mismanaged the coronavirus and should be held accountable, but that’s not what Matt Gaetz did by pushing this unsubstantiated claim on Fox News — and that’s certainly not what Donald Trump did by terminating NIH funding for this widely respected researcher working on the coronavirus,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, “From the very beginning of this crisis, Trump has put politics over science and it’s clear he is still not learning from his mistakes. We need a president who listens to experts instead of Fox News conspiracy theorists — and fortunately, we have the chance to vote for Joe Biden in November.”
Highlights from the report:
Matt Gaetz spread a conspiracy theory about an NIH grant on Fox News:“Matt Gaetz on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’: The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.
“There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But, the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room.”
The Trump Administration actually increased funding to the grant in question last year: “That grant was to Peter Daszak’s U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance for disease prevention it does throughout the world. His work was considered so important that, last year, the grant was reauthorized and increased by the Trump administration.”
In an unprecedented move, Trump terminated the NIH grant researching coronavirus: “Scott Pelley: How often are NIH grants terminated in this way?
“Maureen Miller: This is the first one I’ve ever heard of. When they terminate an NIH grant, and it’s not something that’s usually taken lightly, it is for cause. There’s fraud involved at some level. There is either manipulation of the data, you’re putting your participants in harm’s way, or your data are fraudulent.
“Scott Pelley: And none of those things have been alleged with EcoHealth?
“Maureen Miller: Absolutely not. None.”
Initially weak on China, Trump flip flopped to acknowledge their wrongdoing “Initially, President Trump praised China. But in the following weeks, testing in the U.S. failed to catch up to the need, vital equipment was short, bodies filled refrigerated trailers, and science was continuously challenged.
“President Trump at 4/23/20 briefing: Then I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection?
“As the U.S. led the world in illness and death, the White House moved the focus to the Chinese government.”
Trump continues to politicize science, elevate conspiracy theories during a pandemic “Dishonest and negligent allegations have now ended EcoHealth’s carefully reviewed research designed to stop pandemics. Representative Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the floor of the House to lampoon the crisis. This was back in the beginning of March, weeks before masks were common. Peter Daszak, whose researchers wear masks to shield them from viruses in the wild, says his team is now facing layoffs.
“Peter Daszak: This politicization of science is really damaging. You know, the conspiracy theories out there have essentially closed down communication between scientists in China and scientists in the U.S. We need that communication in an outbreak to learn from them how they control it so we can control it better. It’s sad to say, but it will probably cost lives. By sort of narrow-mindedly focusing in on ourselves, or on labs, or on certain cultural politics, we miss the real enemy. “
Media Matters: Timeline: How Trump’s Fox News fixation shaped the federal coronavirus response
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