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Press Release Published: Dec 10, 2020

Select Subcommittee Witness Confirms No Politicization of CDC Scientific Publications

WASHINGTON—Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) issued the following statement in response to the Democrats’ false claims of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

“The Select Subcommittee Democrats’ letter drastically mischaracterizes Dr. Kent’s interview. The letter fails to acknowledge the predicate of the Democrats’ investigation is now fully debunked. Despite there being zero evidence of actual interference in CDC scientific reports, Select Subcommittee Democrats continue to search for illusory evidence in obstruction of the Trump Administration’s unprecedented whole-of-America response to the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Kent, a career CDC official, unequivocally confirmed that there was no political interference and the scientific integrity of the MMWR was never compromised. Case closed.”

Below are the facts that debunk the Democrats’ latest claims.

There was No Political Interference in the MMWR Process

Dr. Charlotte Kent, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports Editor-in-Chief, stated, unequivocally, that she would never let anything affect the scientific integrity of the MMWR.

  • Minority Counsel: And under your watch, being in charge, editor-in-chief of the MMWR, do you ever let anything affect the scientific integrity of the MMWR?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: That’s correct. I am very committed to maintaining the scientific integrity of the MMWR.
The Trump Administration’s Ongoing Coronavirus Response is Unprecedented

Dr. Kent confirmed the Trump Administration’s whole-of-America response to the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented.

  • Majority Counsel: What took place to prompt [Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Deborah Birx] to be added to the concurrence or concurrence be required form them?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: I mean, the COVID-19 response is something that is unprecedented…we needed to function as a full – – a whole Government. And you know, this response has required more engagement across the entire Government than anything, you know, in the last 50 or 60 years.

Dr. Kent had no concerns about HHS and White House leadership being added to the pre-publication distribution of MMWR summaries.

  • Majority Counsel: Did you have any questions or concerns about [HHS and White House leadership being added to pre-publication distribution of MMWR summaries] at the time?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: No, not really. Again, it’s with the philosophy this is an unprecedented time that we need to be coordinated in our mission.
Nobody from Outside CDC Ever Caused a Delay in MMWR Publication

Dr. Kent testified no MMWR was ever delayed for any reason by anybody outside CDC.

  • Majority Counsel: Okay. You actually – you said a second ago that external forces did not cause the delay of this report. Did external forces cause the delay of any other report?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: No.
The Timing and Publication of the Georgia Summer Camp MMWR was Not Improper

Dr. Kent stated that Dr. Redfield’s suggested edits to this MMWR were nuanced and did not alter the scientific integrity of the report.

  • Majority Counsel: This email says – – he writes here at the top: “Two edits from Dr. Redfield. They’re highlighted in yellow. They should be incorporated…” Do you recall anything just generally about the – – whether you had any reaction to receiving the edits?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: I have been very diligent about maintaining the scientific integrity of things that are published in MMWR, reports published in MMWR, and there was no cause for alarm by whatever – – whatever the comment was. So I feel like I can say with assurance that that comment did not change the scientific integrity of the report, that it was most likely a kind of nuanced, you know, statement that didn’t change the science. So, you know, that’s…I was not concerned by it.

Dr. Kent stated that officials including Dr. Redfield and Dr. Birx, wanted this particular MMWR out quickly because of its importance to the general public.

  • Majority Counsel: You referenced this before, but this says, “Birx requests that we publish quickly.” Do you know why she wanted to publish quickly?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: It was during a time where there was a lot of interest in infections among children…

Dr. Kent stated that releasing the Georgia MMWR two days later than anticipated was required based on the CDC’s own publication process and to ensure the MMWR was given priority attention by the public.

  • Majority Counsel: On Exhibit 13, four emails down the chain, you write, “Just got the call. Request a delay until Friday by Dr. Redfield. Timing will be better.”…Do you have any understanding of why was the timing better?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: Well, one, it was only a 2-day delay, so its not a long delay, and it couldn’t be – – because of [the CDC’s] production processes, it couldn’t be – – it couldn’t be released on Thursday because that’s when [the CDC] does regular content. So as I understood, that there was a desire to make the communication about this report, you know, kind of front and center.”

Dr. Kent stated, it is common for MMWRs, particularly related to COVID-19, to be slightly delayed ensuring the science is delivered to the public.

  • Majority Counsel: Is this the only time that you’re – – that you can recall at any – – at any point in time during your response or otherwise where somebody asked you to delay the publication of an MMWR, other than for a, you know, scientific review and whatnot?
  • Dr. Charlotte Kent: I certainly would have discussions about that all the time….Because we do try to be – – again, effectively communicate things and to have things be – – again, effectively communicate things and to have things be – – you know, the timing not be disruptive, it didn’t stand out especially in my mind that this, you know. And again, it was only delaying it by 2 days, so. You know, as we – – as you – – if you go through, [the CDC] delayed a number of reports.
HHS is Not Obstructing the Select Subcommittee’s Fruitless Investigation
  • To date, HHS has produced almost 10,000 pages of e-mails, official guidance documents, and MMWRs to the Select Subcommittee.
  • HHS made available five senior level CDC officials for transcribed interviews even though these officials are actively responding the pandemic and saving American lives.
  • Despite Democrat counsel’s badgering of Dr. Charlotte Kent and repeated attempts to pierce attorney-client privilege, HHS “remains committed to facilitating the completion of the voluntary transcribed interviews” and producing all relevant documents requested by Select Subcommittee Democrats.