Second Trump appointee out at FDA amid credibility concerns
Wednesday, 2 September 2020
WASHINGTON (AP) — A second Trump administration appointee has been ousted at the Food and Drug Administration in the wake of the agency's botched announcement about an experimental therapy for COVID-19, which medical experts said damaged the health regulator's credibility with the public.
An FDA spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that John “Wolf” Wagner, a political appointee installed by the White House earlier this summer, is no longer heading the agency’s office of external affairs. Instead, Heidi Rebello, a longtime FDA career official, has stepped into the position on an acting basis, overseeing all FDA public communications. Politico first reported the news.
The shakeup comes just five days after conservative communications specialist Emily Miller was removed from her post heading the agency’s press office. Miller served just 11 days on the job and helped coordinate the agency’s announcement that it had granted emergency authorization to convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.
That announcement triggered a backlash last week after FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn was forced to correct misstatements that inflated the potential benefits of the therapy. The decision to authorize the treatment also followed threats and complaints from President Donald Trump, raising concerns that the FDA had buckled to political pressure from the president.
Health experts and former FDA officials say Hahn tarnished the agency’s reputation at the moment it’s needed most: as agency scientists prepare to decide whether upcoming coronavirus vaccines are effective and safe to be given to millions of Americans. Public doubts about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines could derail U.S. plans for a mass vaccination effort.
Wagner is a longtime government and military spokesman with strong ties to the Republican Party...
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