Partly driven by concerns over reelection in November, U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks "has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic" as he called for reopening the badly battered economy, said a report by The Washington Post on Thursday.
"His administration has sidelined or replaced officials not seen as loyal, rebuffed congressional requests for testimony, dismissed jarring statistics and models, praised states for reopening without meeting White House guidelines and, briefly, pushed to disband a task force created to combat the virus and communicate about the public health crisis," the report said.
"If the message were to go out with complete objectivity, it would be disastrous for Trump," Max Skidmore, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the author of a book on presidential responses to pandemics, was quoted as saying. "So he is doing his best to prevent experts from speaking out or using their expertise, and he's simply trying to divert attention."
"Administration officials say the moves reflect a shift, driven by Trump, away from focusing on the health challenges caused by the pandemic and toward restarting economic activity and pulling the country out of recession," said the report.
"The evolution is being driven in part by the political calendar, with just six months before voters decide the president's fate," it said.
"Trump's shift toward message-control comes as he has been frustrated with scientific experts, data and models that have failed to support his desire for a quick solution to the crisis," it added.
The Trump administration has also shelved guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have been in the works for weeks and offered advice on how to reopen certain businesses and facilities, said the report.