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Editorial Advisory Board: Redfield is the wrong man for the job

Amid intense criticism for the chaotic and inequitable way in which vaccines are distributed in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has committed yet another misstep by naming Dr. Robert Redfield as his new senior adviser to support Maryland’s response to COVID-19.  Redfield is the absolute wrong person for the job.

Redfield, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former University of Maryland AIDS researcher, most recently served as director of the Centers for Disease Control under President Donald Trump.

In 2002, President George W. Bush rejected Redfield for that same top CDC job, possibly because of Redfield’s controversial past work on HIV-AIDS.  While in the military, Redfield led the charge in institutionalizing discrimination against and the stigmatization of HIV-positive service members.

The humiliating Defense Department procedures that Redfield helped to craft in the 1980s involved the public “outing,” confinement and discharge of active-duty troops who tested positive for HIV. Some of those who were drummed out of the military found themselves without eligibility for medical coverage or other forms of veterans’ benefits at a time when they desperately needed that to deal with their medical condition.

This stigmatization was consistent with statements published by Redfield expressing faith-based anti-gay prejudices. For the same reason, he continued to promote the bogus theory that abstinence-only education was the best way to combat the spread of AIDS, long after that notion was discredited.

Controversy followed Redfield to the Trump administration, where he presided over the CDC’s most epic failure -– its ineffectual response to COVID-19. Although Redfield did champion the use of masks to combat the pandemic, he also was roundly criticized for permitting science to be subverted by White House political meddling into the CDC’s public health mission.

Redfield, to the consternation of the medical community, sat by passively while Trump spread blatant lies about the seriousness of the pandemic and the airborne transmissibility of the virus.

His willingness to go along with the White House’s politically motivated disinformation campaign about COVID-19 in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary created confusion, damaged the prestige of the CDC, and undermined public trust in it. As the top civil servant at the CDC, Redfield was supposed to protect the public; instead, he sat on his hands.

Now, Hogan expects him to act to protect Maryland. But Redfield’s failures leading the CDC damaged his credibility, which in turn will compromise the integrity of the state’s response to the pandemic.  Marylanders should question whether someone with Redfield’s controversial record is the right person for the role of senior adviser to the governor.

Editorial Advisory Board members Arthur F. Fergenson and Debra G. Schubert did not participate in this opinion.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

Andre M. Davis

Arthur F. Fergenson

Nancy Forster

Susan Francis

Leigh Goodmark

Michael Hayes

Julie C. Janofsky

Ericka N. King

Stephen Z. Meehan

C. William Michaels

Angela W. Russell

Debra G. Schubert

H. Mark Stichel

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.

 

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