Carolyn Maloney
Carolyn Maloney

New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is upholding the integrity of PR by seeking to derail Donald Trump's PSA campaign designed to cheer up Americans bummed out by COVID-19.

She suspects the Trump administration wants to spend a “quarter of billion dollars in taxpayer money to fund what appears to be a political propaganda campaign just two months before a presidential election.”

Would Team Trump ever stoop so low? Does a cat have whiskers?

Maloney, chairwoman of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, is perturbed that the Dept. of Health and Human Services awarded a $250M contract to Fors Marsh Group for a PSA campaign to “defeat despair and inspire hope” related to the COVID-19 pandemic just ahead of the Nov. 4 vote.

The contract shows Trump views the more than 190K dead Americans as a PR problem that can be fixed by a political marketing campaign. That's outrageous.

In her Sept. 11 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Maloney wrote: “To address the despair many Americans are experiencing during this pandemic, the Administration needs to be honest about the risks Americans face and promote science-based solutions—not political spin—to finally contain the virus and prevent more unnecessary infections and deaths.”

Maloney senses a defeatist attitude in the PR contract’s “performance work statement. It states one of the goals is get people to accept COVID-19 as the “new normal” and encourage them to get back to work. It's reminiscent of the "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" scene during the Monty Python classic, The Life of Brian."

The New York Democrat is uneasy with Fors Marsh reporting to Michael Caputo, a former campaign operative to Trump and not a public health professional. Caputo, who led Trump's GOP primary campaign in New York State, is the author of "The Ukraine Hoax: How Decades of Corruption in the Former Soviet Republic Led to Trump's Phony Impeachment."

Maloney reminded Azar that the fight despair PR campaign is not the first example of the Administration putting political spin over science in responding to the coronavirus crisis.

“In August, you, along with the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Stephen Hahn and President Trump, presented an inaccurate description of the effectiveness of convalescent plasma at a press conference announcing emergency authorization for the treatment.

“Following criticism about the inaccurate information you presented, FDA Commissioner Hahn was forced to apologize, and two political appointees who reportedly played a role in developing the inaccurate information were removed from their positions,” she wrote.

Since Maloney fears the Administration is using PR as a vehicle for a taxpayer-funded political propaganda campaign, she asked Azar to suspend the contract until her committee reviews all documentation related to it.

She wants “all strategies or plans prepared by HHS, the Executive Office of the President, or Operation Warp Speed regarding mass advertising, public service advertisements, or social media campaigns related to the coronavirus; and an explanation of measures to avoid political messaging and ensure alignment with public health recommendations.”

Though she may not know it, Maloney is fighting to uphold the reputation of PR. The discipline is about promoting truth and accurate information, not political spin to gain re-election.

Hats off to Carolyn.