Biden Surgeon General Appears to Admit to Agency Participation in Tech Censorship

Biden Surgeon General Appears to Admit to Agency Participation in Tech Censorship

  • May 24, 2023
Notes from meeting with Ed Sec and education orgs, including author of infamous NSBA letter, seem to show dismissive attitude toward parents

Today, government watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) revealed notes from an August 2021 meeting in which Surgeon General Vivek Murthy admitted working with social media companies to apparently censor “misinformation” about COVID-19 vaccines. The meeting was hosted by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and included officials from teachers’ unions and national education organizations. The meeting occurred just a few weeks prior to the release of the infamous letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that equated parents protesting at meetings to domestic terrorism.

The meeting notes, taken by Aaliyah Samuel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Local, State, and National Engagement in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education, were part of documents obtained by PPT via its lawsuit against the Department of Education for records related to the NSBA letter. The notes indicate the meeting dealt mainly with COVID guidance related to schools and efforts to get teens vaccinated, even in the face of reluctance from their parents. According to the notes, Surgeon General Murthy “also noted that they are already working to combat misinformation in many ways, one being working with tech companies.”

The meeting appeared to strike an adversarial tone regarding parents. “Surgeon General Murthy noted that there is a significant portion of teens who want to receive the vaccine, but their parents are hesitant,” say the notes. “He talked about the importance of teens advocating for their health,” presumably to their vaccine-skeptical parents. Chip Slaven, then-acting CEO of the NSBA who penned the since-retracted letter in the month after this meeting, “noted that misinformation is taking over in school board meetings and that the loud minority is taking over the space making it hard for school board members to do their jobs. He asked for advice on combating misinformation and proposed possible (sic) doing a national town hall to address some of the misinformation head on,” according to the meeting notes.

The notes reveal that “Secretary Cardona proposed the idea for there to be a national ask made of school boards to have a local pediatrician come to a school board meeting to discuss misinformation.” PPT’s Science Undermined project has identified a number of instances in which the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the Office of the Surgeon General is a part, has itself been responsible for misinformation and violations of scientific integrity principles.

In another section, the notes state that “Surgeon General Murthy talked about the importance of lifting up the messaging of a student’s right to be safe in school and that the narrative should not be about a student’s right not to wear a mask. He also noted that in order for students to be safe, both students must be wearing a mask. It is not about one individual’s right to not wear a mask.”

The meeting closed with Secretary Cardona telling the group that “safely reopening schools is an equity issue.” In addition to Secretary Cardona, Surgeon General Murthy, and the NSBA’s then-CEO, participants included representatives of AASA, the Superintendents Association; Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) teachers’ unions; National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP); National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE); and National Governors Association (NGA).

“These notes should give every American pause,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain. “The admitted tech censoring of ‘misinformation’ and the disregard for parents’ legitimate concerns about policies around the pandemic and school reopenings show a remarkable disregard for individual and First Amendment rights and may have laid the groundwork for the NSBA letter a few weeks later that led to DOJ targeting of parents and also created a tremendous backlash. The massive loss of trust among government and public health officials that has occurred over the last few years can be traced to the attitudes prevalent in this meeting.”