Scientist Settled Federal Whistleblower Complaint Regarding Covid Treatments
Rick Bright, the virologist who claimed the Trump administration retaliated against him last year by removing him from his post, has settled his whistleblower complaint against the federal government and will receive back pay and compensation for “emotional stress and damage to reputation,” his lawyer said Monday.
Dr Bright’s impeachment last April as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency created upheaval within the Department of Health and Human Services at the very start of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said he was removed from his post after pushing for tight control of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug adopted by President Donald J. Trump as a treatment for coronaviruses, and which the administration passed “politics and cronyism before science”.
These allegations are still under investigation by the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistleblowers. Under Mr. Trump, HHS officials have denied any wrongdoing.
The Biden administration confirmed the settlement of the case on Monday in a statement praising Dr Bright, who advised President Biden during his transition.
“The agency would like to thank Dr Bright for his dedicated public service and for the contributions he made to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic while he was director of BARDA,” the statement read. “We wish him good luck in his new endeavors.”
Neither side has disclosed any details or details of the settlement. But Dr Bright’s lawyer, Debra S. Katz, said her client was compensated to the fullest extent permitted by law. She said he would receive back wages, as well as damages to cover the costs of private security and temporary housing he needed after receiving threats. Made by administration officials, including Mr. Trump, who had called Dr. Bright on Twitter “creepy” and “disgruntled employee.”
Dr Bright now works for the Rockefeller Foundation, where he is developing a new pandemic prevention institute that will serve as a hub for scientists from government, the private sector and academia. The goal is to identify new pathogens, he said in an interview. He said he was happy to have the episode behind him.
“Going through the assault I suffered from the last administration, going through public criticism from the White House and HHS leaders when I was just trying to do my job, put a lot of stress on me,” did he declare. “They were trying to find anything they could to denigrate and discredit me.”
After clashing with his bosses, Dr Bright was assigned to a smaller role at the National Institutes of Health to work on a “Shark Tank” style program to develop treatments for coronaviruses. He then took sick leave because of the high blood pressure, a spokeswoman said at the time. In Monday’s interview, Dr Bright said that at the height of the controversy he was also diagnosed with skin cancer.
In the end, he left government – a departure Ms Katz called a layoff because, she said, he had not been given any meaningful work.
Ms Katz said the settlement was particularly satisfying for her. “Many times, whistleblowers come forward and it’s the end of their career,” she said. But Dr Bright, she said, “went from being a persona non grata under the Trump administration to being a respected and important expert on the subject.”