Ann McFeatters: Trump’s war on science comes home to roost

Tribune Content Agency

This is not an age of enlightenment. This has become the most anti-science government since people believed that administering leeches cured the sick and dying.

For three years, many rational Donald Trump supporters were convinced the administration’s actions on climate change, environmental cleanup, health insurance expansion and several hundred other return-to-the-past policy changes were a necessary antidote to perceived excessive regulation of business and industry, a kind of cyclical retrenchment.

But even many diehard Trump loyalists reeled after he for weeks promoted a potentially dangerous drug unproven to be effective in treating COVID-19, a drug bandied about on Fox News and which can cause heart arrhythmia. Fox News also ridiculed the pandemic for weeks, insisting it was no more than a routine attack of influenza or a Democratic hoax, contributing to Trump’s disastrous refusal to take the virus seriously.

As the country surpassed 50,000 COVID-19 deaths, after Trump preposterously suggested people might be injected with disinfectant to clean the lungs or have cancer-causing ultraviolet light inserted under the skin to combat the killer virus, it was clear the administration’s anti-science bias comes from the top.

As early as his first weeks in office, Trump deliberately set out to get rid of scientific experts who dared challenge him. In large measure he has succeeded. More than 1,600 scientists are gone, in addition to hundreds of experts on advisory scientific and health panels.

He fired the woman from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who warned in January that Americans were dealing with a pandemic that would change their lives, and he shut down CDC virus briefings.

He fired the head of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine development office for contradicting him on treatment.

Repeatedly, he pooh-poohed top scientists who disagreed with him, resulting in unnecessary deaths. After two months of no preparation for the pandemic hitting the U.S., he kept ridiculing the need for widespread testing and contact tracing. He said the virus would disappear like magic. He even said “only” 50,000 Americans would die.

When it is pointed out other countries have tested far greater percentages of their population to prevent deaths than the U.S. has, he continues to mislead by insisting the number of tests in America is higher. Tests are a state problem, he argues, not his.

When Trump got rid of federal pandemic specialists, installing a loyalist whose claim to science was breeding labradoodles, he showed serious disdain for science.

After refusing to order a national lockdown, he ignored top doctors’ insistence that pushing for businesses to open too soon risked a second wave. When doctors said autumn will bring more infections, he refused to believe them.

Nobody should be surprised. Trump and his ever-changing aides have attacked science and science-based initiative more than 150 times. In addition, Trump has gotten rid of or hidden inconvenient data and changed rules to show what he believes, not what science proves.

Trump and his people have changed hundreds of rules from EPA, USDA, Interior, FDA, HHS, FERC, Energy, Labor, VA, SBA, OSHA and other agencies for politics, without scientific input.

Trump is flat-out wrong in claiming the coronavirus pandemic “came out of nowhere.” He personally and repeatedly was warned.

He ignores pleas that visa waivers are needed to bring in needed scientists. He has pushed through weakening regulations on air and water pollution from everything from autos to ash ponds.

But as Trump tossed about ideas for treating coronavirus, such as ingesting toxic disinfectants or inhaling ultraviolet light, he faced an avalanche of worldwide denunciation that his words were “dangerous” and “insane.”

Trump relishes playing doctor/scientist on TV. But he consistently violates the first rule of medicine: Do no harm. When poison control centers reported hundreds of questions about the advisability of disinfectant injection, he shrugged and said such reports didn’t happen.

He also likes playing economist, not mentioning that a sixth of Americans have lost their jobs or that Americans are going hungry because there is no federal plan. He promises “he” will rebuild a better-than-ever economy even without a vaccine.

Trump says scientists who contradict him are wrong while he is right because he is a “very stable genius.” The economists, the scientists, the doctors he cavalierly dismisses are aghast that he is so shallow, so shameless, so embarrassing, so scornful of facts.

One more thing. Monkey see, monkey do. Trump refuses to wear a mask. Thus Vice President Mike Pence, head of the virus task force — someone who should set an example — showed up maskless to tour the Mayo Clinic, which requires everyone be masked.

Science, not Trump, is the way back to normal or what will pass as normal.



Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at


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