Cheney’s office censors CDC director’s testimony on climate-related health threats
The Center for American Progress Action Fund emails out a great daily report (sign up here). Today’s subject is Dick Cheney’s one
Vader man war to use Jedi mind tricks censorship to keep the American public in the dark side on the dangers of climate change.
In this case, he censored the testimony on the “health threat posed by global warming” by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last October. She had planned to say the “CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern.”
But who really cares what the CDC has to say on the subject anyway when we have White House Press Secretary Dana Perino to assure us “There are public health benefits to climate change“? After all, Perino is an expert on the subject thanks to here bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a masters in Public Affairs Reporting.
Here is the Progress Report in full:
Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified [PDF] before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the “Human Impacts of Global Warming.” Gerberding told the committee that global warming “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts [PDF] on the health of Americans,” but she gave few specifics, instead focusing on the CDC’s current preparation plans. Soon after Gerberding delivered her testimony, CDC officials revealed that the White House had “eviscerated” her testimony by editing it down from 14 pages to four. The White House initially claimed that Gerberding’s testimony had not been “watered down,” but White House Press Secretary Dana Perino later admitted that the Office of Management and Budget had removed testimony that contained “broad characterizations about climate change science that didn’t align with the IPCC.” In a letter responding to questions [PDF] by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) yesterday, former EPA official Jason Burnett revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the Council on Environmental Quality pushed to “remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change.” During a news conference yesterday, Boxer chided Perino’s previous claim that the edits were made in order to align the testimony with the IPCC. “This was a lie,” said Boxer. The White House, however, refused to admit wrongdoing. “We stand 100 percent behind what Dana said,” White House spokesperson Tony Fratto told reporters.
What’s missing: The White House’s deletions, which were “overwhelmingly denounced” by scientists and environmental health experts, included “details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC’s analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels.” The cuts made by the White House included “the only statements casting the health risks from climate change as a problem, describing it variously as posing ‘difficult challenges’ and as ‘a serious public health concern.'” At the time, Perino claimed that “the decision” was made “to focus that testimony on public health benefits” of climate change. “There are public health benefits to climate change,” asserted Perino. But in his letter to Boxer, Burnett said that the reason for the cuts was to “keep options open” for the EPA to avoid making an endangerment finding for global warming pollution, which was required by a recent Supreme Court ruling. In a statement yesterday, Boxer tied the editing of Gerberding’s testimony to the recently-revealed effort by the White House to keep a formal EPA endangerment finding “in limbo” by refusing to even open the e-mail from Burnett that contained the document. They’re “obviously related,” said Boxer.
White House claims “nothing unusual”: Defending against accusations that the White House is “recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect,” Fratto claimed that the Bush administration did nothing improper in editing the testimony. “There’s absolutely nothing unusual here in terms of the inter-agency review process, whether it’s testimony, rules or anything else,” Fratto told the Washington Post. He added that “the process exists so that other offices and departments have the opportunity to comment and offer their views.” But it’s apparent that the level of editing involved in Gerberding’s testimony was out of the ordinary. In October, a CDC official told the press that while it was normal for testimony to be changed in a White House review, the changes made to Gerberding’s testimony were particularly “heavy-handed.” In an interview with CNN yesterday, Gerberding said that she “wasn’t aware that there had been any edits” to her testimony until she “got to the hearing.” Gerberding maintained that she did “the very best” she could to “answer the senators’ questions honestly and openly.” Cheney’s spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, refused to comment on the allegations against Cheney’s office, simply saying, “We don’t comment on internal deliberations.”
Cheney’s malign environmental influence: In his letter to Boxer, Burnett revealed that Cheney’s office had also objected in January to congressional testimony by EPA administrator Stephen Johnson that “greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment.” According to Burnett, an official in Cheney’s office “called to tell me that his office wanted the language changed.” Such actions are not unusual for Cheney. Since taking office, he has taken “a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business” while undermining any real action to combat climate change. In December, after Johnson “answered the pleas of industry executives” by announcing his decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles, it was revealed that executives from the auto industry had appealed directly to Cheney. EPA staffers told the Los Angeles Times that Johnson “made his decision” only after Cheney met with the executives. Since February 2007, Cheney has quietly maneuvered to exert increased control over environmental policy by federal agencies — particularly the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.