Emails released by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) yesterday confirm claims by former Surgeon General Richard Carmona that he was subject to political pressure and interference by the Bush administration during his tenure in the position. Carmona had testified in July before a House committee that that the Bush administration interfered with and censored his speeches on health issues, including stem cell research and sex education, in order to fit a political agenda.
In a letter to Mike Leavitt, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Senator Kennedy wrote that the emails show that ‘HHS officials sought to censor and suppress certain projects undertaken by the Surgeon General, and promote the Administration’s agenda, for purely political purposes.’ For example, Kennedy points to several emails that indicate HHS and White House staff were pushing Carmona to appear at political events and fundraisers, and wanted him to keep his speeches focused on supporting the President’s positions and agenda. Kennedy notes that ‘many of the emails from White House officials were sent from Republican National Committee email accounts,’ a practice criticized by prominent committee chairs in Congress as ‘violating transparency provisions of the Presidential Records Act.’
In his letter, Kennedy asks Leavitt to provide additional information and documents that might shed more light on certain political appointees’ interactions with the Office of the Surgeon General as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.