President Donald Trump stands on stage Tuesday after speaking at a campaign rally at Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

U.S. health department spokesperson Michael Caputo and his aides asked for the right to read and suggest changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly COVID-19 reports, Politico reported, citing emails and three people familiar with the matter.

Communications aides from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services complained to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other officials that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump’s optimistic messaging about the pandemic, according to the report.

CDC employees pushed back against changes but have increasingly agreed to allow political appointees to review the virus reports, and have agreed to amend language in some cases, Politico said.

Trump has come under criticism for intentionally downplaying the severity of the virus publicly after saying in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward that he knew how dangerous it was. The U.S. president has defended his comments, saying he didn’t want to cause panic or price spikes.

Story by Melissa Cheok

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