Scott Gottlieb has seen his national profile grow amid the coronavirus epidemic as the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration becomes a lead voice from outside the administration on how to fight the worst epidemic of health the country has ever known.
Gottlieb, a 47-year-old doctor, has become a regular presence on cable TV shows, and his Twitter account is widely followed by journalists, health policy experts and politicians.
He maintained a line with the White House throughout the pandemic, and although his early warnings fell on deaf ears, he did not criticize the administration with criticism, but offered sharp words to officials and States when he disagreed with their policies.
All of this helped him become a trusted figure in the midst of the crisis of people on both sides of the aisle.
He unofficially advised the White House Coronavirus task force, providing Trump with a recent “road map” that he and other experts have written to determine how the federal and state governments can begin to find their lives. normal safely.
Gottlieb was an FDA commissioner under Trump for about two years before resigning in March 2019, citing the desire to spend more time with his family in Connecticut and to settle out of Trump amicably. He had been one of Trump’s most popular appointments and appeared to be widely appreciated in Congress by Democrats and Republicans.
Gottlieb, who has not returned an interview request for the story, has raised the alarm over the need for the federal government to prepare for a pandemic since late January. Those who know him say that he was able to make breakthroughs at the White House because of his expertise and his desire to be frank about the challenge.
“He is not going to obscure his point of view and say something that people want to hear or that could make the headlines. He’s just trying to be clear about the critical things that need to be done to respond to the pandemic, “said Mark McClellan, a former FDA commissioner who hired Gottlieb under the George W. Bush administration.
“It’s not about making a name for yourself or saying something controversial or critical just for the fun of it. It’s really with that kind of constructive goal in mind. I saw that the whole time we worked together, “he added.
McClellan, who, along with Gottlieb and his colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote the “reopening roadmap” released a week ago, said it has aroused considerable interest from Capitol Hill lawmakers, Trump administration and state officials regarding their recommendations.
“It was really the goal. We all have to work together, ”said McClellan. “There is a complex set of issues that need to be tackled together to move forward. “
Vice President Pence, who heads the coronavirus task force, told CNBC last week that he had “great respect” for Gottlieb and noted that he had advised the task force when asked asked about the former FDA chief’s warning about the potential emergence. coronavirus hotspots in places like New Orleans, Miami and Chicago.
Trump told reporters on Monday that he had received a copy of Gottlieb’s “road map” and that the task force would consider recommendations for Americans to wear non-medical face masks to prevent the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus and to the use of GPS tracking to enforce home isolation. Conversely, a few days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged Americans to wear face covers in public.
“He has been with me for a long time,” Trump told reporters on Monday when asked about the recommendations. “He did a great job at the FDA. “
Gottlieb, a doctor and cancer survivor, wrote an editorial on January 27 calling on the United States to prepare for a national epidemic of the new coronavirus and sounding the alarm about the need for widespread screening and testing. point of service.
“Global spread seems inevitable. The same is true for the emergence of epidemics in the United States, although a generalized American epidemic can still be avoided. When pockets of the epidemic hit our shores, we shouldn’t have excessive panic. But we have to be ready, “wrote Gottlieb for CNBC. A few days later, Gottlieb warned that COVID-19 was likely to be a pandemic, about a month before the World Health Organization declared it.
He has since been heard on Twitter and in interviews, occasionally drawing the attention of Trump, who retweeted Gottlieb on March 12, warning of “two difficult months” ahead and advocating for physical distancing in the communities. Trump too sharingtweets Gottlieb said on Sunday that cases appear to be slowing in some places due to social distancing but pointing to areas of concern, including Miami and other parts of Florida, which Gottlieb said is becoming a “major epicenter” of COVID -19.
In early March, Gottlieb attended a weekly meeting of Republicans at the invitation of representative Liz Cheney (Wyo.), GOP leader in third place, according to Paul Kane of the Washington Post.
At the meeting, Kane wrote that Gottlieb had issued a brutal warning to the audience which had been dismissed as “alarmist” by some who were present. These Republicans challenged his recommendations for social isolation and compared the virus to the seasonal flu, prompting a strong response from Gottlieb, who warned that they had a moral duty to save lives.
Last week, Gottlieb said in a CNBC appearance that the success of the White House’s social distancing measures to maintain the death toll would depend on the decisions of “populist” states like Texas and Florida that don’t had not yet taken sufficiently aggressive action. .
“If they don’t get more aggressive, we could be at the brink of some of these bad results,” said Gottlieb. Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R) has since issued a home stay order, having previously resisted it.
Gottlieb is one of a handful of former Trump administration officials who have sounded the alarm over the coronavirus epidemic.
Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser who also served in government during the Bush era, warned for weeks about the potential impact of COVID-19, making recommendations and weighing on the decisions of administration on Twitter and in media interviews.
Kevin Hassett, the former Trump chief economist, also said last month in an interview with CNN that the epidemic could trigger another great depression. Hassett returned to the White House late last month in an informal role to advise Trump amid the pandemic.
Slideshow by photo servicesNathaniel Weixel contributed.