Before his abrupt departure from the Department of Health and Human Services, former spokesperson Michael Caputo had a big idea. The department would round up more than 30 A-list celebrities to “inspire hope” amid the coronavirus pandemic, and nabbed $300 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make it happened, Politico reports.
HHS envisioned Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and others recording messages for their ad campaign. “But they ended up with only Dennis Quaid, CeCe Winans and Hasidic singer Shulem Lemmer” — and Quaid has already quit, Politico writes.
Health officials envisioned matching top Trump appointees with celebrities in a multi-million-dollar ad blitz, circulating wish lists that would have paired Medicaid chief Seema Verma with, say, Taylor Swift, in this document obtained by POLITICO. pic.twitter.com/WnCTdW0lZS
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 30, 2020
To fund the ad campaign, which Caputo said President Trump “demanded,” the former HHS spokesperson reportedly transferred $300 million from the CDC and used it to pay marketing firms tasked with producing at least 20 PSAs by Election Day. So far, “it’s been a total mess,” one person involved in the process told Politico. “The team should have been recording one celebrity per day. Instead, they’ve been only recording one per week or, actually, less,” they said. Even talks with Dr. Mehmet Oz — a former advocate for the discredited coronavirus treatment hydroxychloroquine — fell through, while one celebrity’s representative said it would “be malpractice” to collaborate with the Trump administration.
“This is a boondoggle,” one HHS official added. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic … We could use that quarter of a billion dollars on buying PPE, not promoting PSAs with C-list celebrities.” Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk