Emily Miller Out as FDA Spokesperson Following Controversial Agency Endorsement of Convalescent Plasma

Emily Miller, the chief spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has been fired after President Donald Trump and the FDA commissioner overstated the convalescence of COVID-19 patients who are receive blood plasma treatment.

Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn announced on Friday that he removed Miller from her position at the agency, which she held for 11 days.

The agency's website states that Miller "serves as a confidential strategic advisor to the FDA commissioner and senior leadership on how to best inform the public about public health developments and actions."

She had previously worked as the Deputy Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of State during President George W. Bush's administration and had been a political correspondent for One America News Network.

The announcement of Miller's termination comes a day after The New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) fired public relations consultant, Wayne Pines. He had advised Hahn to apologize for the exaggerated comments about the benefits of blood plasma.

On Tuesday, Hahn tweeted: "I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction."

Trump and Hahn have repeatedly cited the statistic that blood plasma treatment has reduced COVID-19 deaths by 35 percent.

The figure was widely criticized by many health experts and scientists, who argued that the data was calculated based on an extremely small and narrow sample size. The overstatement raised concerns over how data from ongoing vaccine trials would be evaluated and presented to the public by the FDA.

"The one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an EUA before you have a signal of efficacy," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Reuters on Monday. "One of the potential dangers if you prematurely let a vaccine out is that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the other vaccines to enroll people in their trial."

On August 23, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent blood plasma for the treatment of COVID-19.

FDA Stephen Hahn
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn addresses the media during a press conference at the White House on on August 23. Hahn announced on Friday that he has removed the agency's chief spokesperson from her position after the FDA controversially endorsed blood plasma treatment for COVID-19. Peter Marovich/Stringer

The DHHS denied that Pines' contract was terminated due to his involvement in the plasma controversy, saying they had been reviewing and canceling similar contacts, according to the Times.

Pines said he didn't know why he was being fired from his position, but he defended his recommendation to Hahn.

"I did recommend that he correct the record," the former DHHS consultant said, as reported by the Times. "If a federal official doesn't say something right, and chooses to clarify and say that the criticism is justified, that's refreshing."

Newsweek reached out to the FDA for comment, but did not hear back before publication.

Updated 1:25 PM ET.