The White House repeatedly denied the CDC permission to brief the public on the coronavirus, report says
- The CDC was denied permission by the White House to brief the public on the coronavirus crisis, a source at the agency told Yahoo News.
- The CDC found itself unable to do public briefings for three months, beginning not long after a senior official warned in late February that the virus was likely to hit the US hard.
- At the time, this was a sharp contrast with predictions from President Donald Trump, who argued that the coronavirus did not seriously threaten the US.
- Between March 9 and June 12 there were no CDC briefings. In that period, Trump increasingly led communications on the virus, spreading false claims and touting unproven cures.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was denied permission by the White House to brief the public about the coronavirus crisis, a source at the agency told Yahoo News.
As the coronavirus swept through the US, it was the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, and fronted with increasing frequency by President Donald Trump, that took the lead in briefing the public about the crisis.
Earlier in the year the CDC had given frequent briefings on the pandemic. But then it fell abruptly silent, with no public briefings held between March 9 and June 12.
A CDC spokesperson, speaking anonymously to Yahoo, confirmed that the agency "slowly but surely took a backseat" to the coronavirus task force.
"We continued to ask for approval" from the White House to hold briefings, the CDC spokesperson told Yahoo News. "We were not given approval. Finally, we just stopped asking."
In a briefing on February 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, had issued a stark warning about the likely impact of the disease.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen," she said.
The message contrasted sharply with Trump's attempts at the time to downplay the likely impact of the disease.
The CDC spokesperson though insisted that behind the scenes, the agency had had a key role in the US response to the crisis.
"We really have had a seat at the table leading the public health response to this," the spokesperson maintained.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
A task force member told Yahoo that the CDC was too concerned with its own stature, and an interagency response to the crisis was required. "The CDC feels like they should be in charge of this," remarked the official.
The White House's coronavirus task force briefings were originally led by Vice President Mike Pence, with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease, playing a prominent part.
President Donald Trump began to play an increasingly central role in the briefings, which later were canceled after he touted injecting disinfectant as a coronavirus treatment, drawing astonishment and criticism.
The CDC and its director, Robert Redfield, have been criticised for missteps in the early days of the crisis, including the botched rollout of a testing system, and bureaucratic delays.
Amid a surge in new cases, the Trump administration is considering scapegoating the agency for the US' faltering response to the crisis, administration sources told Politico in June.
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