Although by now it’s clear that the Trump administration holds nothing sacred, there are still some things it can do to shock our tired brains. Apparently, it has tried to get Santa Claus—Santa!—to participate in its crazy pandemic response plans.
A new report in the Wall Street Journal, which honestly could be a Netflix drama, goes into detail on a purported $250 million public service coronavirus advertising campaign with a Santa component. The Santa deal was whipped up by Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Journal, the campaign featured a quid pro quo arrangement for Santa Claus performers: Help us promote the benefits of covid-19 vaccination and you’ll get early access to the vaccine.
For those who forgot, Caputo is the same Trump appointee with zero medical experience who accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of having bogus “deep state motives” and demanded changes to official scientific reports. He is currently on medical leave.
A spokesperson for HHS told the Journal that the Santa “collaboration will not be happening.” The official added that department secretary Alex Azar did not know about Caputo’s Santa outreach discussions. While Santa is out, the rest of the campaign is now under review.
HHS officials told the Journal that Azar had “ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign that will be led by top public health and communications experts to determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes.”
The government contract for the campaign, which was titled the “Covid 19 Public Health and Reopening America Public Service Announcements and Advertising Campaign,” had already been awarded to a market research and communications firm in Arlington, Virginia. It would have consisted of TV, radio, online and podcast announcements that were scheduled to start immediately, the outlet reported.
All of this, apparently, was meant to “defeat despair, inspire hope and achieve national recovery,” according to a work statement reviewed by the Journal.
In September, Caputo told the Journal that the campaign would focus on a variety of topics, including supposedly urging minorities to participate in covid-19 clinical trials. People of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and pregnant women have historically been excluded from clinical research even in non-pandemic times. A month earlier, he stated that the public health effort would be an edgy media campaign featuring prominent Americans, including Surgeon General Jerome Adams…Read more>>