Trump Administration spends $300 million on COVID-19 propaganda campaign

The Trump Timeline

Sources linked at end of page.


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The Trump Administration signs on to spend $300 million in taxpayer dollars on an advertising campaign. Their goal is to downplay the seriousness of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the election.

The ad blitz, described in some budget documents as the “Covid-19 immediate surge public advertising and awareness campaign,” is expected to lean heavily on video interviews between administration officials and celebrities, who will discuss aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and address the Trump administration’s response to the crisis.


The Dept. of Health & Human Services contract was shopped to at least a dozen communications firms throughout July and August. On September 1, it’s awarded to Fors Marsh Group. The idea for the campaign was conceived by Michael Caputo, but he later steps down from HHS after losing his mind on a Facebook Live video.

The contract is for $250 million, but Politico reports that the final cost is over $300 million. Sources told Politico that much of the funding is being forced out of other agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

10 current and former health officials told POLITICO that they have concerns about the campaign’s scope, goals and even how it has been funded — by pulling money out of health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control that are in the midst of fighting the pandemic, rather than working with lawmakers to set up a brand-new advertising effort with congressional oversight, or drawing on substantial internal resources and expertise in running health-related public service campaigns.

“CDC hasn’t yet done an awareness campaign about Covid guidelines — but they are going to pay for a campaign about how to get rid of our despair? Run by political appointees in the press shop? Right before an election?” said Josh Peck, a former HHS official.


On September 10, House Democrats launch an investigation into the advertising campaign. In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, they say:

We have grave concerns that, rather than focus on planning and executing a national strategy to contain the coronavirus, the Trump Administration is using a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money to fund what appears to be a political propaganda campaign just two months before a presidential election.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)


Photo: Public Domain

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