Another alarming example of Bush Administration interference with science emerged on 10 July when former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Carmona, who served as Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006, described in detail accounts of Bush appointees routinely editing his speeches, barring him from public comment on sensitive issues like embryonic stem cells and the emergency contraceptive pill, and preventing the timely publication of a report on the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Carmona told the Committee, “The job of the Surgeon General is to be the doctor of the nation – not the doctor of a political party.”
Two other former Surgeon Generals, Dr. David Satcher (Clinton appointee serving 1998-2002) and Dr. C. Everett Koop (Reagan appointee serving 1981-1989) also described cases of political interference during their tenures.
Following the testimony, Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) commented, “What we learned at this hearing is that the Office of the Surgeon General is in crisis. Political interference is compromising the independence of the Office. On key public health issues the Surgeon General has been muzzled. This problem will not solve itself.”
Waxman intends to introduce the Surgeon General Independence Act to prevent further politicization of the position and safeguard the freedom of the nation’s top doctor to speak openly and honestly about public health issues.
Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee likely had considered the testimony of the former Surgeon Generals when they grilled Dr. James Holsinger on 12 July 2007. Holsinger, Bush’s nominee to succeed Carmona, is considered a controversial candidate because of a 1991 paper about homosexuality. Holsinger faced questions about this research, embryonic stem cells, abstinence-only education, and emergency contraception.
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