Former Surgeon General says Bush political appointees censored science communication

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Reuters reports: The first U.S. Surgeon General appointed by President Bush accused the administration on July 10 of political interference and muzzling him from discussing the scientific underpinnings of key issues like embryonic stem cell research. “Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” Dr. Richard Carmona, who served from 2002 until 2006, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The New York Times reports that Carmona described attending a meeting at which top officials dismissed global warming as a liberal cause. “And I said to myself: ‘I realize why I’ve been invited. They want me to discuss the science because they obviously don’t understand the science.’ I was never invited back.”

The Times (“White House Is Accused of Putting Politics Over Science”) reports:

He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one of which included Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser, he said.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to the Kennedy family.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

We focus on climate science censorship, but sometimes we need to note analogous manifestations of the modus operandi in other issue areas. As Dr. Carmona said, “The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds.”  Carmona said some of his predecessors as Surgeon General told him, “We have never seen it as partisan, as malicious, as vindictive, as mean-spirited as it is today, and you clearly have worse than anyone’s had.”

 

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