Media Claims Trump 'Muzzled' Top Doctor, Doc Himself Takes the Mic and Shuts It Down


I don’t know what the perfect response to coronavirus would be for an American president.

In a Marvel movie, it would probably involve President Tony Stark going into his labs at Stark Industries and creating a cure within 24 hours. Of course, Secretary of State Obadiah Stane would try to sabotage the facility creating the cure. That would mean Tony would have to don the Iron Man suit yet again and, with the help of the Navy SEALs, “compromise” Stane to a “permanent end.”

Unfortunately, it turns out that somewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe™ timeline, Stark married one of the Trump daughters and left Pepper Potts out to dry.

Now the press wants to know a few things: Was it really necessary to trot out the Navy SEALs just to kill Obadiah Stane? Could this destabilize the Middle East? Was Stane a whistleblower, telling us that vaccines and/or cures actually do cause autism? Was Stane part Paraguayan? Could this attack be rooted in Stark’s rampant xenophobia and white nationalism?

I wouldn’t exactly go around rating Trump’s response to the coronavirus as Stark-level perfect, nor even perfect by standards not set by Disney movies. That being said, it certainly beats the alternative universe in which Hillary Clinton is in charge. In that universe,  a CDC official with no experience dealing with health crises at an executive level is appointed to deal with the disease because it looks better.

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Meanwhile, in our actual universe where Donald Trump is blessedly president, someone who’s actually had experience dealing with handling public information in the face of a health crisis — ie, Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor who dealt with an HIV outbreak in his state — takes charge of things.

However, Trump’s appointment of Pence to lead the country’s response to the coronavirus has led to headlines like this: “Cool: Health Officials, Scientists Banned from Speaking About Coronavirus Without Mike Pence’s Approval” (Vanity Fair).  “Pence’s new mission on coronavirus: A controlled message” (The Washington Post). “The Trump administration has barred the top US disease expert from speaking freely to the public after he warned the coronavirus may be impossible to contain” (Business Insider).

The Washington Post’s headline came closest to the truth. (Yeah, I know, I checked my temperature.) What most people in the media took away was something closer to the Business Insider headline.

In the view of much of the media, the Trump administration wasn’t trying to send out a unified message because that was important to stop unnecessary panic and ensure you didn’t have public officials saying different things about a disease that’s suddenly being conflated with the 1918-20 Spanish flu pandemic. No.

The administration was muzzling officials, particularly the government’s top disease expert. Somewhere in the CDC complex in Atlanta, everyone who wasn’t singing that “Everything is Awesome” song from “The Lego Movie” was being kept in a secure basement facility with the full Hannibal Lecter treatment, complete with cart and facemask.

I’m on my mobile data plan right now and my carrier just informed me I’ve used up my monthly quota of movie references on this article alone, so let’s just go into Joe Biden using this controversy to sell his candidacy:

“No one takes the president’s word for these things,” Biden said in an interview with CNN on Friday.

“He at a minimum exaggerates everything, and the idea that he’s going to stand there and say ‘everything’s fine, don’t worry?’ Who’s going to believe that? Let the experts speak like we did in our administration.”

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So is Trump letting the experts speak? Well, as Business Insider reported, he’s “barred the top US disease expert from speaking freely to the public.” On Friday, a Trump administration official countered this accusation.

Which official? Oh, just the top U.S. disease expert.

Get your popcorn ready:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, didn’t exactly look like a man on a hostage video reading off a script here, either. In a Friday news conference, responding to the reports that originated in The New York Times (slightly draconian headline there: “Pence Will Control All Coronavirus Messaging From Health Officials”),  Fauci took the mic and seemed to be speaking on his own terms.

“I’ve never been muzzled and I’ve been doing this since the administration of Ronald Reagan.” Fauci said, after being introduced by Trump in response to a contentious question from the press corps. “That was a real misrepresentation of what happened.”

I’m glad we’ve really come together during the coronavirus outbreak.

I understand our wonderful republic only works when there’s an adversarial process. Then again, it helps when the response to a very limited number of coronavirus cases in the United States is proportional.

That’s not what has happened. What has happened is fear — and not necessarily the kind of fear generated by a legitimate threat but instead the type generated out of cynicism.

There’s something to be said about the mind that connects the facts that a) there’s a potential pandemic threat, b) the president and his administration have a reaction to it, c) it’s an election year and d) that reaction can be criticized, and then comes up with conclusion e) it’s worth criticizing the current administration over.

That’s where we are. Any sort of unified response is “muzzling” to the anti-Trump media; any sort of gatekeeping becomes the control of messaging.

There’s nothing noble about the media using the coronavirus threat to highlight preconceptions about the administration.

Here’s what we know about coronavirus in the United States: At least 69 people are infected. One has died. Several have infections that can’t be traced to travel in affected regions.

In terms of its spread, even epidemiologists don’t know. That’s scary but factual. It also doesn’t make headlines.

What does make headlines is officials supposedly being muzzled from giving us pertinent information. There’s no evidence the Trump administration is doing that. Just ask the people supposedly being muzzled.

Everyone wishes they could solve this. Even Tony Stark did when I reached him by phone, although he refused to comment further. Obadiah Stane said that while he was dead, he wasn’t dead dead and may be revived in a future iteration of the franchise. Pepper Potts is said to be devastated, although not by any disease.

That said, they can’t fix things. Neither can the people in our universe.  But nobody — not in our universe or the MCU — is being muzzled. Fauci’s statement to the media, on a microphone in front of a gaggle of reporters, with the president by his side, proved that.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture