The Trump administration had very specific guidelines when targeting celebrities for a $250 million coronavirus advertising campaign: that they be people who have never criticized President Donald Trump, supported former President Barack Obama or established themselves as proponents of gay rights.
According to documents obtained by Democratic House lawmakers, a top Trump administration official inserted “partisan political interests” into a taxpayer-funded public health campaign ahead of the presidential election, per The Washington Post. The campaign’s purpose was to “defeat despair and inspire hope” around the coronavirus pandemic by having entertainers participating in the PSA program.
There were plenty of big names who didn’t make the cut: Jennifer Lopez (“made a political statement during her Super Bowl performance to address Trump's immigration policies”); Justin Timberlake (“publicly endorsed Obama and supports gay marriage”); Billie Eilish (“not a Trump supporter, stated he ‘is destroying our country and everything we care about’”); Eminem (“against Republicans”); Taylor Swift (“says Trump’s presidency is ‘autocracy’ and says she is pro-choice”); Christina Aguilera (“an Obama-supporting Democrat and a gay rights-supporting liberal”); and Jack Black (“known to be a classic Hollywood liberal”).
Dwayne Johnson, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson are just a few of the stars listed as having “declined.”
Around 274 stars were vetted, with only 10 determined to have met the requirements. According to The Washington Post, those celebrities included Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dennis Quaid, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, gospel singer CeCe Winans, singer Shulem Lemmer, Dr. Oz and former basketball player Dwyane Wade. (It’s unclear who exactly was in charge of the vetting process, as some of these stars have spoken out in support of Obama and/or the LGBTQ community.)
Quaid, Winans and Lemmer did videotaped interviews in September, according to the Wall Street Journal. An Oct. 1 document shows all of the stars who initially agreed to participate dropped out.
Politico broke the news about the Trump administration’s “COVID-19 immediate surge public advertising and awareness campaign.” The plan was to feature video interviews between administration officials and celebrities who’d discuss aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and address the Trump administration’s response to the crisis. Quaid fired back after he was named in the article and slammed any notion he was part of President Trump’s reelection campaign.
“NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPOLITICIZED,” the actor captioned a video he posted on Instagram. “I have to say right now I am feeling some outrage and a lot of disappointment about a PSA and interview that I did with Dr. Anthony Fauci a few weeks ago. It is being used by the cancel culture media that I was doing a campaign ad and endorsement of Donald Trump and that I was paid handsomely for this by diverted CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] funds. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Quaid continued, “I did a PSA for Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he was kind of enough to grant me an interview as well. And the interview and PSA were about raising awareness of COVID-19 and what we can still do to prevent lives being lost by this terrible, terrible virus. It was about the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing. It was in no way political, and in fact, Dr. Fauci and I talked about it beforehand that it was not to be political.”
The Goliath star likely made the approved list as he previously applauded President Trump’s handling of COVID-19. “I think the president is handling it in a good way. We see him on television every day, he’s involved, and the travel ban early on was a great idea,” he told The Daily Beast.
However, Quaid noted he was “not paid one penny” for doing the interview.
A Health and Human Services spokeswoman issued a statement to WSJ that the agency has halted the advertising effort as it undertakes a strategic review “that will be led by top public health and communications experts to determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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