Political interference in the formulation of CDC policy related to the COVID-19 pandemic is coming under scrutiny. On Wednesday, a Congressional committee requested phone call records between the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten and outgoing CDC Director Rochelle Walensky amid concerns of political favoritism.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, led by Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), sent a letter to Walensky “to ensure accountability for any political interference.” Weingarten testified to the Subcommittee in April regarding AFT’s role in advocating for the reopening of schools, and the Subcommittee was not aware at the time of the direct telephone line Weingarten had to Walensky.
Weingarten has been accused of exercising political influence on the CDC. Text messages obtained by the Fairfax Parent’s Association appear to show Weingarten alerting Walensky to a story in The New York Times regarding the CDC’s then-upcoming school reopening guidance. According to the text messages, Weingarten expressed concern that the guidance was “at odds with [their] discussion.” After Weingarten’s comment, the CDC released revised guidance that allowed school districts to remain closed and still claim that they were following the CDC’s advice.
Wenstrup’s letter also lamented the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the CDC is a major operating component, for their “pattern of obstructing Congress.” Wenstrup alleged that the Department had produced select documents that could be acquired via a freedom of information request, but failed to promptly provide records.
Weingarten has not made any public comments regarding the request for her and Walensky’s phone records. Walensky has yet to respond to the request as of this writing. Wenstrup is requesting phone logs and texts between Walensky and Weingarten be submitted by July 12.
It’s becoming more apparent why Walensky resigned. The former CDC head knew that investigations were headed her way and she decided to jump ship.