Former CDC Director, Hero of Smallpox Fight, Joins EWG’s Call for Redfield To Resign Over Trump Administration’s Botched Covid-19 Response

WASHINGTON – The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who led the successful effort to stamp out smallpox, has joined EWG in calling on the current CDC director to resign over the government’s disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a private letter sent September 23 and obtained by USA Today, Dr. William Foege, who served presidents of both parties and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, urged CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to resign and make public how the White House interfered, manipulated the agency’s guidance and downplayed the risks of Covid-19.

“Don’t shy away from the fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our country. It is a slaughter and not just a political dispute,” wrote Foege. “You don’t want to be seen, in the future, as forsaking your role as servant to the public in order to become a servant to a corrupt president.”

On September 21, two days before Foege sent his letter, EWG President Ken Cook sent his own letter to Redfield, calling on him to resign, highlighting press reports, internal documents and emails showing that Redfield had willfully allowed his agency’s communications with the public to be corrupted in order to assist President Trump’s repeated efforts to shield the deadly risks of Covid-19 from the American people.

“Your continued service as director threatens irreparable, long-term damage to the agency’s service and credibility,” Cook wrote. “The American people simply can no longer trust the CDC to live up to its motto of ‘saving lives, protecting people’ with you as its leader. Dr. Redfield, it is time for you to go.”

Here is Cook’s letter to Redfield.

September 21, 2020

Dr. Robert C. Redfield, Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mailstop F-80
4770 Buford Highway, NE
Atlanta, Ga., 30341

Via email: [email protected]

Dear Dr. Redfield:

Over the past few months, a steady stream of revelations has made it clear that as the nation grapples with what is by far the gravest infectious disease challenge in its history, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under your leadership is no longer the front-line protector of America’s public health, but a threat to it.

It is equally clear, Dr. Redfield, that it’s time for you to go.

During your stewardship of the agency, you have enabled political leaders to usurp and corruptly communicate the very science of disease prevention and control for which the CDC is renowned the world over. At a time when literally millions of lives are at stake in the United States and around the globe from the threat of COVID-19, you have allowed the CDC’s good name and reputation to be used for partisan political ends that directly conflict with the research, conclusions and guidance of the agency’s scientists. 

The CDC has confronted political controversy, pressure and heated policy debates at many points in its history. But never before has its leader dragged the agency through such a series of manifestly deadly misstatements of science, willful communications blunders, and life-threatening guidance flip-flops – all at the behest of political leaders whose publicly avowed goal is to minimize the mortal danger the novel coronavirus poses to the American people.

Indeed, if you are so willing to participate in the corrosion of the CDC’s scientific integrity in these circumstances – a disease that has killed more than 200,000 Americans in just six months – how might you bend under gusts of political and economic wind to compromise other areas of the agency’s work, such as foodborne infections, toxic chemical contaminants, or vaccines and immunizations?  

We cannot risk finding out. Your continued service as director threatens irreparable, long-term damage to the agency’s service and credibility. The American people simply can no longer trust the CDC to live up to its motto of “saving lives, protecting people” with you as its leader. 

Dr. Redfield, it is time for you to go.


Ken Cook
President, Environmental Working Group
Washington, D.C.

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