Maloney, Clyburn, and Krishnamoorthi Call on Trump Administration to Suspend $250 Million Coronavirus PR Contract

Sep 11, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 11, 2020)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to suspend a $250 million communications contract awarded to Fors Marsh Group to create public service announcements (PSAs) relating to the coronavirus crisis.

 

“We have grave concerns that, rather than focus on planning and executing a national strategy to contain the coronavirus, the Trump Administration is using a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money to fund what appears to be a political propaganda campaign just two months before a presidential election,” the Chairs wrote.

 

The contract’s “performance work statement” reportedly states that one of the contract’s goals is to “defeat despair and inspire hope” during the coronavirus crisis, including by “sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal and instill confidence to return to work and restart the economy.”  

 

“A death toll of more than 190,000 Americans is not merely a public relations problem; it is a man-made catastrophe,” the Chairs added.  “The spread of the coronavirus cannot be stopped by a political marketing campaign.  To address the despair many Americans are experiencing during this pandemic, the Administration needs to be honest about the risks Americans face and promote science-based solutions—not political spin—to finally contain the virus and prevent more unnecessary infections and deaths.”

 

The Trump Administration has a history of putting political spin over science in responding to the coronavirus crisis. 

 

Just last month, Secretary Azar, President Trump, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner inaccurately promoted the effectiveness of convalescent plasma at a press conference announcing emergency authorization for the treatment. 

 

Following criticism, the FDA Commissioner was forced to apologize, and two political appointees who reportedly played a role in developing the inaccurate information were removed from their positions.

 

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reversed its position to recommend against testing people who may be asymptomatic—reportedly in response to pressure from the White House—and directly at odds with the unified scientific consensus.

 

“In light of our serious concerns that the Administration may use this contract as a vehicle for taxpayer-funded political propaganda, we call on you to suspend the contract until the Department has provided us with information showing that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure the contract will be used solely to provide accurate public health information—rather than political spin intended to boost the President’s reelection prospects,” the Chairs concluded.

 

The Chairs also sent a letter to the Fors Marsh Group requesting documents and information about the contract.

 

Click here to read the letter to HHS.

 

116th Congress