NIH director says Trump, Republicans pressured him to back unproven COVID-19 remedies
On his last day as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins spoke on how former President Trump pressured him to endorse unproven medical treatments for COVID-19, such as “hydroxychloroquine and blood plasma.”
Speaking with “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Rita Braver, Collins said, “I have done everything I can to stay out of any kind of political, partisan debates, because it really is not a place where medical research belongs.”
However, Collins said he often had to face off against Trump for his refusal to recommend medical treatments for COVID-19 that had not been shown to improve illnesses.
“And I got into a difficult place, and got a bit of a talking-to by the president of the United States about this,” he said. “But I stuck my ground.”
Sunday was Collins’s last day as NIH director after 12 years as the head of the agency. Braver asked Collins if he would have resigned instead of submitting to the White House’s demands.
“Yeah, I was not going to compromise scientific principles to just hold onto the job,” said Collins, adding that he also refused demands from right-wing lawmakers that Anthony Fauci, now President Biden’s chief medical adviser, be fired.
“Can you imagine a circumstance where the director of the NIH, somebody who believes in science, would submit to political pressures and fire the greatest expert in infectious disease that the world has known, just to satisfy political concerns?” said Collins.
When asked about any regrets on how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled, Collins said he wished that the “problem of hesitancy” had been studied more and that he did not foresee so many people refusing the vaccine once they were made available.
With Collins’s retirement from the NIH, the agency’s principal deputy director, Lawrence Tabak, will serve as the acting director of the NIH beginning on Monday.
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