Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This is also what happens when the truth stops mattering

Ex-surgeon general faults White House
Richard Carmona says the administration 'simply buried' his scientific data
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 11, 2007

WASHINGTON — President Bush's first surgeon general testified Tuesday that his speeches were censored to match administration political positions and that he was prevented from giving the public accurate scientific information on issues such as stem cell research and teen pregnancy prevention.

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard H. Carmona, who was surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, told a congressional committee. "The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation — not the doctor of a political party."

Early in the administration, when the issue of federal funding for stem cell research arose, Carmona said, he felt he could play an educational role by discussing the latest scientific research. Instead, he said, he was told to "stand down" because the White House already had made a decision to limit stem cell studies. He said administration appointees who reviewed his speech texts deleted references to stem cells.

Carmona's remarks were the latest in a series of complaints from government scientists about what they say are administration efforts to control — and sometimes distort — scientific evidence in order to support policy decisions.

NASA scientists have complained, for example, of political pressure to tone down warnings about global warming. Environmental Protection Agency officials have complained that technical information on such subjects as power plant emissions and oil drilling have been ignored.

Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently dissented from the administration's position by saying its restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research were holding back progress and should be lifted.

Scientists outside the government also have complained about what some call the administration's "war on science."

In the case of the surgeon general, Carmona told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, "the reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas."

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