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Office of Special Counsel Blocks Removal of HHS Whistleblower to Investigate Claim of ‘Political Retaliation’

A pharmacy worker shows pills of hydroxychloroquine used to treat the coronavirus at the CHR Centre Hospitalier Regional de la Citadelle Hospital in Liege, Belgium, April 22, 2020. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Federal agency the Office of Special Counsel on Friday stayed the removal of a whistleblower who alleged he was fired over resistance to promote hydroxychloroquine in the effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office of Special Counsel said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe Dr. Rick Bright, head of the biomedical research arm (BARDA) of the Department of Health and Human Services, was ousted on political grounds.

Bright’s lawyers said the Office “advised that in light of this determination, it would contact the Department of Health and Human Services (‘HHS’) to request that it stay Dr. Bright’s removal as Director of BARDA for 45 days to allow OSC sufficient time to complete its investigation of Bright’s allegations.”

HHS officials in April cast doubt on Bright’s claim of political retaliation, saying that Bright had in fact promoted hydroxychloroquine.

“If Bright opposed hydroxychloroquine, he certainly didn’t make that clear from his email — quite the opposite,” an HHS official told Reuters.

“As it relates to chloroquine, it was Dr. Bright who requested an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for donations of chloroquine that Bayer and Sandoz recently made to the Strategic National Stockpile for use on COVID-19 patients,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in April.

Bright told reporters on Tuesday that the Trump administration “was rushing blindly into a potentially dangerous situation” by ordering 3 million chloroquine pills from Bayer produced in India and Pakistan.

While hydroxychloroquine was initially touted by elected officials including President Trump and New York governor Andrew Cuomo as a possible treatment for coronavirus, the FDA has cautioned medical professionals regarding the potential for serious side effects.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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