New York Post, June 5, 2023
President Joe Biden’s choice for new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief is a telegenic authoritarian straight from liberal central casting. He’s selecting Mandy Cohen thanks in large part to her five-year performance as North Carolina’s health secretary. Choosing Cohen confirms Team Biden has learned nothing and forgotten nothing about COVID.
Politico says Cohen was picked in part for “the broader political dynamics of an administration gearing up for Biden’s re-election run.” Team Biden likes Cohen because she appears credible — its favorite substitute for candor.
Cohen will be taking the helm of a public-health agency widely regarded as a public menace. Early in the Biden administration, CDC kowtowed to teacher unions to craft standards to justify perpetuating COVID school shutdowns, helping blight a generation of children. No wonder trust in the agency has collapsed from 69% pre-pandemic to 44% nowadays. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic complained last week that CDC is “stonewalling” a congressional investigation.
Charlotte WBT radio host Pete Kaliner sneered Friday, “When we were at our most frightened, Cohen was there to infantilize us and treat us as the children she sees us as.” Cohen and Gov. Roy Cooper in October 2020 sent counties a missive urging them to ban alcohol sales at 9 p.m. (instead of 11 p.m.). Cohen didn’t reveal the science and/or data on COVID being more contagious after 9 p.m. The memo also urged counties to restrict any indoor event or convening to not more than 10 people and any outdoor event to not more than 25. Repeat offenders would be subject to $1,000 fines.
Cohen declared in 2021 that she based her pandemic policies on the recommendations of her “scientific team.” But shortly after she left office, she revealed she actually relied on phone calls with political appointees in other states. Rattling on while making hand gestures signifying phone conversations, Cohen recapped a call to the Massachusetts health secretary, who asked her: “Are you going to let them have professional football?” “Nope!” Cohen replied. The Massachusetts official responded: “OK, neither are we.” Cohen then laughed uproariously and explained that “it was conversations like that” that propelled COVID prohibitions.
As one critic jeered, “When exactly did we trade the whole ‘consent of the governed’ thing for the Babysitter’s Club consensus?”
Cohen has a poor record of echoing fraudulent CDC claims. In June 2021, she happily announced that “now we really have more definitive [CDC] data to show that [a vaccine] also prevents you from giving COVID to others.”
CDC “data” spurred Biden’s disastrous promise in a CNN Town Hall: “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” That claim was the result of a CDC coverup of COVID-infection data.
In May 2021, CDC ceased keeping track of almost all “breakthrough” infections among vaccinated people unless they resulted in hospitalization or death. The coverup unraveled after a mass COVID outbreak among vaccinated people in Massachusetts. The Washington Post castigated CDC for withholding information and giving vaccinated people “a false sense of security.”
Cohen has been widely ridiculed for the photo she posted on Twitter in August 2020 showing her wearing a slack-fitting cloth mask emblazoned with a large picture of Anthony Fauci with her pledge, “Face coverings are one of our strongest tools to slow the spread of #COVID19.” Cohen propagated one of the pandemic’s biggest frauds — that porous, flimsy masks sufficed against tiny aerosols. CDC delayed until January 2022 any public statement conceding that cloth masks offered paltry protection against COVID. That was shortly after Washington Post columnist (and former lockdown zealot) Leana Wen scoffed that “cloth masks are little more than facial decorations.”
But perhaps that Fauci mask reveals the real problem with Cohen. During the pandemic, worship of government officials became a substitute for honest, competent public-health policies. Americans were encouraged to view anyone who didn’t submit to the latest edicts as a deadly biohazard to themselves. But neither the masks nor the vaccines provided the protection government promised.
As journalist Alex Berenson (whom the Biden administration got Twitter to ban) observed, “Cohen has heartily supported every authoritarian measure that the last three years have proven useless. Of course, to the White House, her views are a feature, not a bug.” Berenson believes Team Biden is appointing Cohen “to make the CDC even more willing to follow its lead.”
Cohen could shut up critics (even me) if she would do for CDC what Elon Musk did for Twitter. The only way CDC can regain credibility is by opening its files to expose all the agency’s follies and deceits in recent years, including during the Trump administration. Unfortunately in Washington, political appointees promise to “speak truth to power” in lieu of being honest with the American people.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a Brownstone Institute fellow.