Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona denounces Bush administration’s political interference
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON | President Bush’s first surgeon general testified Tuesday that his speeches were censored to match administration political positions.
He was prevented from giving the public accurate scientific information on issues such as stem-cell research and teen pregnancy prevention, he said.
“Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” Richard Carmona, surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, told a congressional committee. “The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.”
Carmona’s remarks were the latest in a series of complaints from government scientists about what they say are administration efforts to control — and sometimes distort — scientific evidence in order to support policy decisions. NASA scientists have complained of pressure to tone down warnings about global warming. EPA officials have said that technical information on power plant emissions and oil drilling have been ignored.
Carmona’s testimony drew a pointed rebuke from the White House. Officials suggested that any breakdown in communicating health information to the American people was ultimately a failure on his part.
One of his major accomplishments as surgeon general was a report on the dangers of secondhand smoke. Its release was delayed for political reasons, he said. Other reports on mental health, emergency preparedness and global health issues were blocked, he said.
Also testifying were former surgeons general C. Everett Koop and David Satcher, who served in the Reagan and Clinton administrations respectively. Carmona said their testimony showed that political interference was “a systemic problem,” but that several former surgeons general told him they had never seen it rise to the levels he encountered.