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A Federal ‘Clawback Clause’ Would Ensure We Never Get Another Fauci, Collins, Or Walensky

Officials who lie to Americans and cause significant damage should return at least part of their pay or retirement benefits funded by taxpayers.

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Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the National Institutes of Health, reprised his parodied musical act for a second time to serenade Yale School of Medicine graduates, reciting a version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” with pandemic-themed lyrics. While the act garnered laughs from the crowd, it further codified the lack of seriousness and responsibility public health officials have expressed while toying with the American public, through unfounded and baseless Covid-19 policy decisions.  

While these unelected policy officials go unchecked, one way to hold people like Collins accountable is through implementing “clawback” clauses in employment contracts. By  definition,  the clauses are “a contractual provision whereby money already paid to an employee must be returned to an employer or benefactor, sometimes with a penalty, [due to] misconduct, scandals, poor performance, or a drop in company profits.” Following the 2008 financial crisis, private companies, especially banks, incorporated clawbacks in employment contracts for senior executives to help “restore the confidence and faith of investors and the public.” In the post-Covid-19 era, we must implement a similar structure to hold public officials accountable for the harm caused by their actions.  

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, the American public learned this month that Collins finally  admitted in  a congressional testimony that there was no scientific evidence and data to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s six-foot social-distance guideline. Collins’ admission came several months after his former pal at NIH, Anthony Fauci,  conceded  in his testimony to the same House subcommittee that the six-foot social-distance rule “sort of just appeared” without scientific input. Plenty has been written about Fauci’s disgraceful role during the Covid-19 pandemic (see  here,  here, and  here). However,  not enough spotlight was shone on Collins until recently.   

Dr. Vinay Prasad  is a hematologist-oncologist and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco. He has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. government’s Covid-19 response early on. In a recent  video on  his YouTube channel, Prasad reminded the public that in August 2020, Collins produced his first music video rendition of himself playing the guitar and singing to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon” with lyrics including, “No one can travel or leave their houses, schools are closed, and all kids must know to avoid the danger zones. We all must do our part to protect the ones we love. So if you meet at least six feet, handle doors with gloves.”

Diane Baker, the woman who played the red dragon in Collins’ music video, did not wear a  mask or keep a six-foot social distance from Collins. One profound lesson the public learned from the pandemic was that the ruling class always exempts themselves from the horrendous and ludicrous rules they demanded the public follow.  

Collins’ video is still on the NIH’s YouTube channel. Prasad commented about it incredulously, “This is what the NIH director was doing. When he was at the center of policies that would affect the generation in unprecedented ways … Instead of studying the evidence … having a debate and dialogue, he was busy writing a godd-mn stupid song” to promote the disinformation of the six-foot social-distancing rule. The American public should be as outraged as Prasad.  

Besides amplifying his musical hobby during the coronavirus panic, Collins joined Fauci to suppress scientific debates about the government’s Covid-19 measures and the lab-leak theory of Covid origin. Three prominent scientists, Harvard’s  Martin Kulldorff, Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford’s  Jay Bhattacharya released the  Great Barrington Declaration, calling for governments to implement “focused protection” of the high-risk population rather than continuing the widespread lockdowns. Collins  referred to  the three coauthors as “fringe scientists” and demanded “a quick and devastating published take down.”

Even in 2021, when  the harm of blanket lockdowns and school closures became indisputable, Collins refused to apologize for his policy failures. Instead, he  continued to spread the misinformation  that “hundreds of thousands of people would have died if we had followed that strategy [focused protection].” He neglected to mention how many Americans died during the lockdowns.  

Another senior public health official who continued to promote the social-distancing rule, despite its lack of evidence, was CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. In early 2021, Prasad co-authored and published an op-ed  “pointing out that the six-foot distance had no scientific basis and would keep kids out of school for six more months.”

Recently uncovered emails from Fauci  showed that he forwarded Prasad’s op-ed to Walensky in February 2021. Walensky’s CDC continued to extend the social distancing rule and worked closely with teachers unions to set  guidelines for when and how schools should reopen, disregarding Prasad’s research. The CDC let politics, not science, drive public health policies. Its guidelines prolonged school closure, resulting in widespread learning loss among American children, with some potentially suffering long-term economic losses in the future.  

However, Fauci, Collins, and Walensky do not have to worry about themselves suffering any economic loss. Collins made nearly $200,000 a year as NIH director before retiring in 2021. Fauci was the highest-paid federal government employee at the NIH, making almost half a million dollars annually. He retired at the end of 2022. It is reasonable to assume Collins and Fauci have accumulated sizable pensions courtesy of American taxpayers. Walensky likely also made around $200,000 a year as the director of the CDC. She stepped down in 2023 and took a cushy position on the Doris Duke Foundation board of trustees. Rest assured Walensky isn’t in a poor house either.  

These three senior public health officials promoted Covid measures supported by little scientific data that caused massive damage to the  American economy and  the  American people, leveraged their influential positions to spread misinformation and silence scientific debates, and eroded public trust in science and public health. We may not be able to hold them accountable. However, to restore public faith and trust in science and public health, we must demand that a clawback clause be added to senior public officials’ employment contracts going forward.

Those officials who lie to the American people and whose policies cause significant damage to American society must return at least part of their pay or retirement benefits funded by taxpayers to compensate for their blunders. The clawback clause is taxpayers’ only insurance policy to ensure that the political ruling class and the public indeed “are all in it together when the next national crisis occurs.” 


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