Inside the White House’s secret $300 million campaign to ‘defeat despair’ about COVID-19

Inside the White House’s secret $300 million campaign to ‘defeat despair’ about COVID-19
President Donald J. Trump meets with reporters to announce that Israel and Sudan have agreed to normalize relations Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo Tia Dufour)

The House Oversight Committee has obtained documents detailing how the health department's top spokesman steered a $300 million taxpayer-funded ad campaign to "defeat despair" about the coronavirus. The documents show that he suggested an ad campaign to help boost President Trump's image during the pandemic, POLITICO reports.

Michael Caputo sought to overrule the career civil servants assigned to the campaign by rushing the production of ads featuring Trump-supporting celebrities.

"…contractors vetted at least 274 potential celebrity contributors for their stances on gay rights, gun control and the 2016 election before allowing them to participate in the campaign," the report states. "One promised public service announcement, which would have also featured infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, was nixed because the celebrity who was set to participate with Fauci had been critical of President Donald Trump, according to documents."

"Caputo also pitched the idea of framing the ad campaign around helping the president," the report continues. "He made the suggestion in a meeting with communications firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe, positioning it as an effort to encourage Trump's base to buy into public health concepts like wearing masks, according to notes dated Sept. 17 and provided to the committee."

Read the full report over at POLITICO.

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