Dr. Rick Bright, whom the geniuses down at Camp Runamuck pushed out of his job as the Department of Health and Human Services’s Deputy Assistant Director for Preparedness and Response, and the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, filed a formal whistleblower complaint on Tuesday afternoon. It’s a detailed and compelling account of the administration*’s mal- and non-feasance regarding the pandemic. There is willful blindness, and a muttonheaded combination of stupidity and cupidity that, you should pardon the expression, is utterly breathtaking.
Undoubtedly, Bright is going to be the Blue Plate Special at Cafe Hannity for a while now, but what he details in his complaint is pretty much unspinnable. He has arraigned the administration on charges of negligent homicide by willful blindness and his case seems ironclad. In the complaint, Bright says that, while he was at HHS, he experienced…
“…pressure from HHS leadership to ignore scientific merit and expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism.
“I insisted on scientifically vetted proposals, and I pushed for a more aggressive agency response to COVID-19. My supervisor became furious when Congress appropriated billions of dollars directly to my office, and when I spoke directly to members of Congress.”
A primary casus belli between Bright and the upper echelons at HHS, and especially between Bright and his immediate supervisor, Dr. Robert Kadlec, apparently was the latter’s sweet tooth for untried and untested quick-fix nostrums, and also Kadlec’s ties to a pharmaceutical lobbyist named John Clerici.
“[Bright] repeatedly clashed with Dr. Kadlec and other HHS leaders about the outsized role played by John Clerici, an industry consultant to pharmaceutical companies with a longstanding connection to Dr. Kadlec, in the award of government contracts…Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, Dr. Bright became even more alarmed about the pressure that Dr. Kadlec and other government officials were exerting on BARDA to invest in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies without proper scientific vetting or that lacked scientific merit.”
Clerici, Bright says, did more than simply lobby for government contracts. He also participated in HHS meetings regarding the best techniques for fighting the pandemic. He describes a meeting in which Clerici and a doctor affiliated with Emory University’s drug innovation company pushed hard for a drug that they said was a “cure-all,” not only for COVID-19, but also for influenza, Ebola, and all manner of infectious viral diseases.
They requested that BARDA urgently invest millions of dollars into their “miracle cure.” Emory’s presentation included limited data, and no data at all from human trials. Dr. Bright asked targeted questions to understand the science behind the drug and its potential to safely treat patients. Dr. Bright knew that similar experimental drugs in this class had been shown to cause reproductive toxicity in animals, and offspring from treated animals had been born without teeth and without parts of their skulls. Dr. Bright accordingly asked Dr. Painter and Mr. Clerici about clinical trials, including whether Emory had conducted a reproductive study for toxicity, which they had not.
It was clear during the meeting that Dr. Kadlec was extremely unhappy with Dr. Bright’s reluctance to fund this drug immediately without further scientific study. Mr. Clerici, Dr. Painter, and Dr. Kadlec all advocated for immediate funding from BARDA, but Dr. Bright continued to insist on clinical testing, as was standard and proper procedure to ensure safety. Discussing the meeting afterwards, Dr. Disbrow remarked to Dr. Bright, “Wow, you really pushed back.” Nevertheless, following that meeting, Dr. Kadlec repeatedly called Dr. Disbrow and Dr. Bright to ask whether BARDA was going to support EIDD-2801. He also brought EIDD-2801 up in various staff meetings, asking Dr. Bright if BARDA had taken any steps to move forward with EIDD- 2801. Dr. Kadlec made it clear that he intended to push the funding through for this contract despite Dr. Bright’s objections.
Further, Bright says that HHS was dilatory generally in responding to the approaching pandemic, a charge that will come as a surprise to approximately nobody.
Given his decades of expert knowledge on pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases, Dr. Bright immediately understood the global reach of this virus. He recognized that lives would depend on the rapid development of effective diagnostics, treatments and vaccines and there was no time to waste. Dr. Bright acted with urgency to begin to address this pandemic but encountered resistance from HHS leadership, including Secretary Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic threat. According to an account in the Wall Street Journal, on January 29, 2020 – eight days after the U.S. announced its first COVID-19 case – Secretary Azar told President Trump that the coronavirus epidemic was under control and that the U.S. government had had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis.
As I mentioned, you can count on Bright’s being slandered by the usual suspects as the administration* and its collaborators rush ahead willy-nilly to “reopen” America and, once that’s done, wash their hands of the whole business while people die all over the country. Rick Bright has produced the first bill of indictment for us, and we will be the ultimate jury.