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New York Times: Reporter who called for CDC chief's resignation went 'too far'


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The New York Times said Tuesday that one of its top health and science reporters went "too far" after calling for the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to resign over the agency's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, journalist Donald G. McNeil Jr. said that the United States's early failures to develop a coronavirus test stemmed directly from what he called incompetence at the top of the CDC. He said that the U.S. "completely blew" the first two months of its response, specifically laying blame on CDC Director Robert Redfield. 

"We had a test on March 5 and it didn’t work, we didn’t have 10,000 people tested until March 15. So we lost two months there. And that was because of incompetent leadership at the CDC," McNeil said. "I’m sorry to say, it’s a great agency but its incompetently led and I think Dr. Redfield should resign."

McNeil in the interview also criticized the decision to tap Vice President Pence to oversee the White House coronavirus task force, referring to him as a "sycophant."

A Times spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that McNeil "went too far in expressing his personal views" during the interview. 

"His editors have discussed the issue with him to reiterate that his job is to report the facts and not to offer his own opinions," the spokesperson added. "We are confident that his reporting on science and medicine for the Times has been scrupulously fair and accurate."

McNeil specializes in coverage of plagues and has reported extensively on the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in China in December. While speaking Tuesday on CNN, he said that much of the United States's problems in its response started with leadership. 

"The real cover-up was the person in this country who was saying this is not an important virus, the flu is worse, it’s nothing," he said, referencing President Trump's early skepticism about the outbreak. "It encouraged everyone around him to say it’s nothing. I had the same problem at the Times. I was trying to convince my editors this is really bad, this is a pandemic. It took a while."

The U.S. has reported more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and roughly 82,300 deaths related to it, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Trump has repeatedly pushed back against scrutiny of his administration's response to the outbreak, claiming that the World Health Organization and China deserve blame for a lack of transparency in the pandemic's early stages. 



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