Top White House Official Goes Dark, Slammed For Being A “Ghost”

( Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the Health and Human Services, is taking heat recently for what his critics are saying is a complete lack of leadership he’s displaying as the White House continues to battle with getting its direction for how to approach the COVID-19 pandemic under wraps.

HHS is the federal agency that’s ultimately responsible for how the country is responding to the pandemic. It’s also responsible for handling the day-to-day administration of the entire healthy system in the U.S.

As its secretary, Becerra’s responsibility is to corral in all the different health factions so that there’s one unified message coming out of Washington on the pandemic.

Many former officials and health experts from the outside, though, say Becerra isn’t displaying any leadership at all. Instead, he’s ceding that responsibility to other people, both at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House.

The Biden administration is releasing confusing guidance and messages regarding a wide range of pandemic-related issues. This includes guidance on masks, how long people should isolate if they test positive or are exposed to someone who tests positive, and on booster shots.

Some of Becerra’s critics say this all exemplifies how little leadership he’s showing in HHS, and how he hasn’t been able to get the various public health agencies under his direction on the same page.

The Scripps Research Translational Institute’s director, Eric Topol, recently commented on the situation:

“Of all the HHS secretaries we’ve had, at least in the last multiple administrations, we’ve never had one that was a ghost when it came to a public health crisis. That’s what we have now: an invisible HHS secretary. Just when we need that person the most.”

Becerra’s office came to his side to support the job the secretary is doing. Sarah Lovenheim, who serves as the assistant secretary for public affairs, said Becerra has indeed been a great leader as the pandemic has raged on. She said:

“[Becerra is] tackling a wealth of issues, with COVID being the focus. The secretary drives agency operations to support carrying out the mission, whether he’s coordinating our agencies to make booster doses accessible, authorizing the distribution of vaccines, or determining how to get masks in the hands of people in need of them.”

Experts, though, dispute that even further. They say the Biden administration has been too reactive instead of being proactive. This has forced many unforced errors, especially when trying to communicate messages to the American public.

One prominent example is how the administration botched the messaging on booster shots. Over the summer, the White House said they had a deadline of September 20 to make available booster shots to all Americans who were at least six months removed from being fully vaccinated.

But, that message went out while the Food and Drug Administration as well as the CDC were still considering the topic, with many experts in disagreement over the rules.

The boosters didn’t end up getting approved for any American who qualified and wanted one until right before Thanksgiving.