Doctor Rick Bright, the vaccine expert who claims he was fired from his job for disagreeing with the Trump administration about coronavirus treatments, called out Donald Trump for his “lack of leadership,” The Hill reported. Earlier this week, Trump criticized Bright during a press conference.
“I never met Dr. Bright. I don’t know who he is. I didn’t hear good things about him. I did not hear good things about him at all,” Trump said.
“And to me, he seems like a disgruntled employee that’s trying to help the Democrats win an election.”
Bright took the opportunity to fire back at Trump during an interview with CBS News.
“I am not disgruntled. I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools for Americans. I’m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me.”
Bright is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). BARDA is a government agency that has a lot of influence over which treatments for infectious diseases get research funding. The agency plays a crucial role in developing treatments for COVID-19. In April, Bright was removed from his position as director of BARDA and reassigned to a lower position overseeing vaccine research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
After Bright was ousted, he went public with the claim that he was fired as retaliation for opposing The Trump administration’s efforts to fund research into chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for COVID-19, The Hill reported. Bright said that he opposed funding research for these drugs because there was no science-based evidence that they worked. He said that he received pushback from prominent people within the Trump administration for his opposition.
According to The Hill, Bright filed a whistleblower complaint against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), claiming in that complaint that he was demoted because he wanted to “prioritize science and safety over political expediency.”
The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), the government agency that is investigating Bright’s whistleblower complaint, determined earlier this week that there was enough evidence to reasonably conclude that Bright’s removal from his position was done as a retaliation for his opposition, according to The Intercept. After the OSC reached that conclusion, lawyers for Bright asked the OSC to prevent HHS from transferring Bright to the NIH until the whistleblower complaint is resolved.
According to The Intercept, a representative from HHS said that the case was currently under review and commented that HHS disagrees with the assertions in Bright’s whistleblower complaint.