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As she ended her tenure last week as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned the American public to be on guard against “misinformation” and the “politicization of science.”
Walensky told The Wall Street Journal she hopes Americans will make health decisions based on “their own risk assessment and their own personal risks, but not through politics,” emphasizing that public health recommendations also shouldn’t be politicized.
“Ironically, this comes after two-and-a-half years of Walensky misinforming the public and politicising the science,” investigative journalist Maryanne Demasi, Ph.D., wrote on her Substack.
Demasi and many others took to Twitter to remind people of Walensky’s false statements and politicized decision-making.
Walensky let teachers unions set cdc school opening policy. She denied recovered immunity and covid vax waning. She pushed vax mandates. She fired dissident scientists like @MartinKulldorff from cdc expert panels. She epitomizes politicized science. https://t.co/zj776Zwv5x
— Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) July 3, 2023
Walensky last week published a farewell op-ed in The New York Times, in which she wrote that public health is critically important in the U.S., and yet she “fear[s] the despair from the pandemic is fading too quickly from our memories.”
She complained that “the agency [CDC] has been sidelined, chastened by early missteps with Covid and battered by persistent scrutiny.”
She also told the WSJ that public health shouldn’t fall along partisan lines.
Yet stark political partisanship defined her time at the CDC. The WSJ reported that a recent KFF poll showed political affiliation was the strongest demographic predictor of COVID-19 vaccination. And about one-quarter of Americans don’t trust the CDC’s health recommendations, according to a 2022 survey published in the journal Health Affairs.
Walensky acknowledged “missteps in communicating” by the CDC, which, she said, “could have done a better job” making it clear to the public that the agency’s message could change during the pandemic.
But, she told the WSJ, the CDC has a plan to regain public trust in the future — by working directly with media organizations to discuss how to best shape public opinion prior to releasing scientific information to the public.
She said the CDC plans to use a method called “prebunking,” where they will communicate directly with media organizations before they release information to let the media know which details about public health might be “misconstrued.”
According to The Associated Press (AP) “prebunking” by public health agencies allows the agencies to define something as “misinformation” before readers have an opportunity to encounter it elsewhere as possibly true.
Then search engines such as Google prioritize “credible websites” like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) or the CDC’s in its searches.
Journalist Kim Iversen proposed a different approach Walensky might take to restoring public trust in the CDC.
“Well, the way to do it is to apologize, to own up to your lies, to own up to the mistakes that you made and to discuss why you did that, why the agency followed such political partisanship when they should have been following science, why they ignored the science that was right in front of them.”
CDC broadcast a long list of ‘misinformation’ during Walensky’s tenure
Throughout her tenure at the CDC, which began when Biden took office in January 2021, Walensky made a series of public statements that have proven to be false.
Evidence has since emerged that Walensky knew many of these statements were false when she made them.
In March 2021, Walensky famously told Rachel Maddow, that “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick.”
The CDC was forced to walk back her statements a few days later. But that message was the basis for vaccine mandates imposed later that year by the Biden administration, businesses, universities and public venues throughout the country.
In a mid-June congressional hearing, Walensky defended her March statements, claiming they were true at the time.
But the Washington Examiner reported on June 20 that emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showed Walensky and Dr. Francis Collins were aware of and discussed “breakthrough cases” of COVID-19 in January 2021 — just before the vaccines became widely available — and yet continued to tell the public the vaccines would prevent transmission.
In that same congressional testimony, Walensky also defended the mask mandates, saying that the summary of Cochrane’s review — which found wearing masks in the community “probably makes little to no difference” in preventing viral transmission — had been “retracted.”
But it was neither retracted nor had the authors of the review changed the language in the summary, Demasi reported.
In June 2021, Walensky told “Good Morning America” that the risk of myocarditis was extremely rare, and there was overwhelming data the vaccines were safe for children — even after hundreds of cases of myocarditis had been reported and the CDC had been aware of a safety signal since February.
Under Walensky, the CDC also gave false information on vaccine safety monitoring, added the COVID-19 vaccines to the childhood vaccine schedule despite known harms, withheld data on boosters from the agency’s own advisers and told pregnant women the vaccine was safe — just days after Pfizer reportedly finalized a report demonstrating it wasn’t.
In a March study by Krohnert and others, researchers compiled instances of errors in data presented by the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic in publications, press releases, interviews and Twitter. The authors reported 25 instances where the agency under Walensky promoted demonstrably false numbers.
In most (80%) cases, the CDC exaggerated the severity of the pandemic. For example, Walensky gave a briefing on June 23, 2022, during which she claimed COVID-19 was a “top 5 cause of death” in children, which was untrue.
Most recently, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic gave Walensky until July 12 to turn over phone records involving American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. The House is investigating potential political interference on the part of AFT with the CDC’s school reopening recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Defender reported.
Walensky warns of ‘future threats’
Walensky warned at the end of her Times op-ed:
“I want to remind America: The question is not if there will be another public health threat, but when. The C.D.C. needs public and congressional support if it is going to be prepared to protect you from future threats.”
To take on these “future threats” the Biden administration nominated Dr. Mandy Cohen, an internal medicine physician and former state health secretary of North Carolina, to replace Walensky.
But critics warn Cohen is “a public health COVID authoritarian” who is “fully entrenched in the ‘bio-pharmaceutical complex.’”
Dr. Peter McCullough told The Defender that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cohen failed to recognize therapeutics and natural immunity, and supported lockdowns, vaccine mandates and masking.
Cohen comes to the CDC from the private sector, where she is executive vice president of Aledade and CEO of Aledade Care Solutions, whose executive leadership and board of directors includes people with connections to the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Walensky congratulated Cohen on her nomination, describing her as “a respected public health leader who helped North Carolina successfully navigate” COVID-19, and whose “unique experience and accomplished tenure in North Carolina … make her perfectly suited to lead CDC as it moves forward by building on the lessons learned from COVID-19 to create an organization poised to meet public health challenges of the future.”