The Trump administration’s over $ 300 million COVID-19 pandemic “hype and awareness campaign” is faltering as top-ranked celebrities retire and Department of Health and Human Services personnel, Politico reported. expresses opposition. .
The campaign, organized by former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo, was intended to “defeat despair” and build confidence in the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. A central feature of the campaign would be video interviews between celebrities and administration officials, who will discuss the pandemic and the federal response.
To do this, Caputo and his team have requisitioned $ 300 million that Congress had previously budgeted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also made a list of more than 30 big name celebrities hoping to appear in Department of Health videos, including Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi and Madonna.
But the project was plagued with missteps by an inexperienced team, disorganization and tepid celebrity interest. So far she has only managed to recruit Dennis Quaid, CeCe Winans and Hasidic singer Shulem Lemmer. Quaid left the campaign this week.
The campaign was further questioned earlier this month when Caputo, whom Trump appointed as a spokesperson for the HHS, announced a leave.
Meanwhile, many current and former HHS employees are opposed to the campaign, which many see as a public relations offer to help Trump’s re-election.
Josh Peck, a former HHS official who oversaw the Obama administration’s advertising campaign for HealthCare.gov, noted earlier to Politico that: “CDC has not yet campaigned on Covid guidelines, but it will pay for a campaign on how to get rid of our despair? Managed by politicians in the press room? Right before the election? ”
“It’s like any red flag I could dream of,” he added.
Others expressed frustration that the campaign was not based on experience within the HHS. Instead, the campaign was contracted with a video company run by a former business partner of Caputo. The company struggled to meet deadlines and retain staff, people involved in the campaign told Politico.
Still others at HHS were upset that the funds were being spent on a video campaign on the pandemic response rather than the pandemic response itself.
“This is a jerk,” an HHS official who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive department project told Politico. “We are in the midst of a pandemic … we could use that quarter of a billion dollars to buy IPR [personal protective equipment], do not promote public service ads with C-list celebrities.