William B. Crews, an official at the National Institutes of Health, announced his retirement this week after he was outed as surreptitiously attacking the NIH and particularly Dr. Anthony Fauci in posts on Twitter and on the right-wing website RedState using the screen name “Streiff.”
Crews worked for and promoted the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while simultaneously undermining the agency’s work with his posts since March. His deception and betrayal was exposed by The Daily Beast.
A representative comment Crews wrote on RedState in June read, “We’re at the point where it is safe to say that the entire Wuhan virus scare was nothing more or less than a massive fraud perpetrated upon the American people by ‘experts’ who were determined to fundamentally change the way the country lives and is organized and governed.”
This is a perfect Ethics Dunce performance, because what Crews did was both unethical and dumb. Screen names tend to get discovered, and something like this is a career-breaker. It’s also a cowardly and ineffective way to make an impact, if the objective is to actually accomplish something. Secret whistle blowing only works these days if your objective is to take down the President.
The ethical way to have an effect on policy and public opinion is to make objections like “Streiff’s” public and under one’s real name. It also helps if you can prove your claims.
The New York Times reported that a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases declined to say whether any investigation was pending on whether Crews had violated federal ethics regulations, which prohibit federal employees from using government property in unofficial capacities or engaging in outside activities while on the job. The Times did not point out, however, that what Crews did would be unethical whether it violated written regulations or not. Given a rare opportunity to help clarify a point that most of the public doesn’t comprehend, which is that assessing ethics is based on the nature of conduct and its consistency with ethical principles and not the existence of official regulations, naturally the Times whiffed. Attacking your employer and sabotaging the work you are paid to do using a fake name is unethical, whether the manner in which it is done gets around regulations or not.
Meanwhile, Crews’ conduct continued a recent theme.The head of communications at the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael R. Caputo, had accused federal scientists of manipulating their recommendations to bring down the Trump administration. He went on medical leave this week, and his science adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, left the government. Quoth the Times:
“But the revelation on Monday that another public affairs officer in the Health and Human Services Department was surreptitiously engaging in similar attacks raised questions about how far the effort to undermine coronavirus science could extend.”
Hilarious. What “science”? At the same time Crews’ perfidy was being exposed, the CDC again demonstrated that the “experts” the President is supposed to slavishly obey regarding the pandemic are not merely fallible and confused, but also feckless. Days after publishing significant new guidance regarding airborne transmission of the Wuhan virus, the CDC this week took it off its website, explaining that it had been “posted in error.”
“The rapid reversal prompted consternation among scientists and again called into question the credibility of the world’s premier health agency,” wrote the Times, “even as President Trump and his senior health officials have sought to undermine C.D.C. scientists.”
Gee, why would they do that, when the CDC is doing such a great job undermining itself?