So says former Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
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."
It is true that in the past some surgeon generals have felt some political pressure, including at least two who also testified with Carmona, --former Surgeon Generals C. Everett Koop (Reagan) and David Satcher (Clinton), but as Carmona testified, other former surgeon generals told him that they had never seen the level of ideological interference that he has experienced from the Bush administration.
If, as the administration claims, embryonic stem cell research holds no hope for curing diseases, then why wouldn't they want the Surgeon General to tell us about all the research he's seen on it? And, if as they claim, abstinence only is the program best suited for preventing teen pregnancies, then again why wouldn't they want the Surgeon General to tell us about the research backing them up?
Obviously, the answer is because they have seen the resarch, and know it doesn't square with their ideological position. So, they will force the messenger to square with it anyway.