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Attorneys: Watchdog Wants Coronavirus Scientist Reinstated Amid Probe

Rick Bright filed a complaint this week with the Office of Special Counsel, a government agency responsible for whistleblower complaints.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Attorneys for Rick Bright, the government scientist who said he had been reassigned and subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint, say a government watchdog agrees that he should be reinstated to his post.

Bright was serving as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is working on a vaccine to combat the coronavirus.

He said he was ousted from the position last month because he wanted to spend money on safe and vetted treatments for COVID-19 — not on ones without "scientific merit," such as hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that President Trump and others had been touting.

Trump on Wednesday called Bright "a disgruntled employee who's trying to help the Democrats win an election."

Bright's attorneys say that the Office of Special Counsel, which hears whistleblower cases, determined there were "reasonable grounds" to believe that his removal was retaliatory and therefore prohibited.

Bright's attorneys say OSC plans to contact the Department of Health and Human Services to request that it put Bright's removal on hold for 45 days so the office can complete its investigation into the allegations.

The OSC said it "cannot comment on or confirm the status of open investigations."

In a statement to NPR, Caitlin Oakley, a spokesperson for HHS, said: "This is a personnel matter that is currently under review. However, HHS strongly disagrees with the allegations and characterizations in the complaint from Dr. Bright."

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.