Remember the March 13 press briefing where President Donald Trump berated PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor? Not the one where he said “you people”; the other one, the first time, when he called her question “nasty”? Well, during that briefing, he hailed this beautiful website that was going to be able to ask users about their symptoms and get them to the closest coronavirus testing site. He even claimed that internet giants Google would be helping to make this mystical site. Well, much like everything else associated with the president, all of this was bullshit.
Yes, a site was being made, but Google wasn’t fucking with it. Some place called Oscar Health—which might be the dumbest name for a health insurance company in the history of health insurance companies—was actually the one building it. And who is Oscar Health? Well, just a company with close ties to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, aka “Slumlord Millionaire” (if you haven’t yet, please stop what you’re doing and watch Kushner’s episode of Dirty Money on Netflix. He truly is a bastard.)
From the Atlantic, which broke the story:
A team of Oscar engineers, project managers, and executives spent about five days building a stand-alone website at the government’s request, an Oscar spokesperson told The Atlantic. The company even dispatched two employees from New York to meet in person with federal officials in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said. Then the website was suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.
The site would not have helped many Americans even if it had launched. Today, more than two weeks after the president promised a national network of drive-through test sites, only a handful of such sites have opened, and fewer than 1 million Americans have been tested.
Kushner, much like his father-in-law and everyone else associated with this swampy AF administration, has crossed all kinds of lines. He’s been working as some kind of shadowy figure inside the White House who was tasked with doing something coronavirus-related when currently his credentials thus far appear to be inheriting large sums of money, marrying into oligarchy and looking like the viola player in an emo-funk band. I’m sure it was merely an accident that Jared Kushner’s brother, Joshua—the one who is married to Project Runway host Karlie Kloss, which led to this beautiful moment,—happens to be a co-founder and major investor in Oscar and “Jared Kushner partially owned or controlled Oscar before he joined the White House. The company’s work on the coronavirus website could violate federal ethics laws, several experts said,” the Atlantic reports.
An Oscar spokesperson told the Atlantic that they donated their time and work for free and never expected compensation for their work, and added that, “The company is ‘not, nor has ever been,’ a contractor or subcontractor for the government.”
“It’s not typical. It’s usually not allowed,” Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at the George Washington University School of Law and an expert on anti-corruption law, told the Atlantic about Oscar’s involvement.
Tillipman added that they can kill all that “we did it for free” bullshit as anyone who has seen The Godfather knows that a favor can be more valuable than money.
“The concern, when you have some free services, is that it makes the government beholden to the company,” Tillipman told the Atlantic.
The Department of Health and Human Services passed on Oscar’s website.
“Multiple vendors worked on proposals, and we appreciate their work,” an HHS spokeswoman told the Atlantic. “Ultimately, Apple launched the new tool.” But, the Atlantic notes, “Apple’s COVID-19 tool is a page on Apple.com, not a stand-alone government site like the one Oscar built.”
Oscar was building the site that Trump talked about and it sounds like someone told him that this shit was unethical AF. The White House declined to comment to the Atlantic.