Top health officials ordered to stay silent as Trump lies about mental health and shootings


Trump is lying about the connection between mental health and guns, but government experts are not being allowed to contradict him.

In the wake of Trump's lies about the connection between mental health and mass shootings, leaders at Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a directive muzzling any dissent, according to a Tuesday Washington Post report.

An Aug. 5 directive from HHS leadership warned communications staffers from posting any information related to guns, violence, and mass shootings without approval from leadership. The memo applied widely, including experts who work at the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.

On official told the Post that he had "no doubt this was meant to prevent anybody from making any statements that might contradict the president."

Following the early August mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Trump blamed mental illness, not easy access to guns, as a primary reason for the twin massacres.

"Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun," Trump said in the immediate aftermath.

But that's just not true.

"Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing," American Psychological Association President Rosie Phillips Davis said in a statement.

The inability to speak out on the topic due to HHS's actions disturbed many mental health experts.

"To say that scientists and experts who know the data and facts best are not allowed to speak — that's very concerning," Dominic Sisti, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies ethics in mental health and psychiatry, told the Post. "It's especially alarming that they're doing this at a critical moment when what we need most is research and evidence-based facts about mental illness."

The Trump administration has a long history of silencing experts who refuse to go along with Trump's misguided policies, as well as federal officials being forced to correct Trump's lies and misstatements.

In 2017, Trump administration officials buried an Agriculture Department report meant to help farmers because it talked too much about climate change. This past June, the administration blocked an expert from talking about science before a congressional committee, again because the issues dealt with climate change.

Once, the Trump administration was accused of retaliating against economists who pointed out data showing the GOP tax law mostly benefitted rich families while leaving poorer families behind.

Sometimes, agencies have no other option than to correct Trump.

In January, leaders of intelligence agencies testified under oath before Congress about threats to the United States and were forced to debunk claims made by Trump on topics like ISIS, North Korea, and Iran.

In May, Trump denied missile tests by North Korea broke a U.N. agreement but was corrected two days later on CNN by his acting defense secretary.

In June, Trump made the bizarre claim that the moon is a part of Mars, forcing NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to clean up Trump's mess with a statement.

According to the Post, the United States does not have higher rates of mental illness than other countries. What sets America apart, experts say, is easy access to guns.

Trump is a habitual liar, seemingly unbound by the truth in any statement he makes. But rather than allow experts to provide Americans with the truth about mental health and mass shootings, HHS officials opted to silence the truth and tacitly stand by Trump's lies.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.