Ousted Scientist Tears Up While Ripping Trump Coronavirus Response: 'We Could've Done Something And We Didn't'

A U.S. government virologist says he was ousted from his job for prioritizing science over President Donald Trump's politics prior to the coronavirus outbreak, tearing up during an interview this week in which he blasted a "lack of leadership" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), spoke to CBS News this week over his filing of a whistleblower complaint regarding the federal government's slow response to COVID-19. The since-ousted Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) scientist rebuked Trump, who called him a "disgruntled employee" Wednesday. Bright instead accused the Trump administration of refusing to listen to scientists who could have helped diminish U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths. Bright briefly broke down as he considered how many nurses and doctors' lives could have been saved if action was taken more swiftly.

"I am not disgruntled," he told 60 Minutes an interview set to air May 17. "I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools for Americans. I'm frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me."

"We see too many doctors and nurses now dying," Bright continued, beginning to tear up. "And I was thinking that we could have done more to get those masks and those supplies to them sooner. And if we had, would they still be alive today? It's a horrible thought to think about the time that passed where we could've done something and we didn't."

On Friday, the Office of Special Counsel made the "threshold determination" the HHS agency violated Bright under the Whistleblower Protection Act for removing him as director of BARDA. Bright has insisted he was ousted because of his refusal to promote the wide use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two anti-malaria drugs Trump referred to as "game changer" vaccines.

Going back as far as late January, Bright sent emails warning colleagues in the federal government about the dire impending situations a coronavirus outbreak would have on the country. He claims the opinions of scientists were roundly rejected and dismissed by the Trump administration for weeks.

"The mask situation seems to be of concern and we have been receiving warnings for over a week," Bright wrote to a colleague in late January. "Important to keep this at the top of various issues."

Responding to Bright's whistleblower complaint filing in the Oval Office Wednesday, the president rebuked his allegations.

"I never met Dr. Bright. I don't know who he is. I didn't hear good things about him. I did not hear good things about him at all," Trump said. "And to me he seems like a disgruntled employee that's trying to help the Democrats win an election."

rick bright whistleblower trump coronavirus
Trump administration whistleblower Rick Bright teared up while ripping the Trump's response to the coronavirus: "we could've done something and we didn't." Screenshot: CBS News | 60 Minutes