On April 2, 2020, the Knight Institute filed a FOIA lawsuit seeking records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning White House and CDC policies restricting the ability of CDC employees to speak to the press and the public, including about the coronavirus pandemic.
According to press reports, the White House began requiring CDC experts to coordinate with the Office of Vice President Mike Pence before speaking with members of the press or public about the pandemic. This policy was put into place after public health officials publicly contradicted the administration’s messaging, which has included inaccurate and misleading information. In addition, the CDC has imposed its own restrictions on the ability of its employees to speak publicly in the past. To the extent that these policies prevent CDC employees from speaking out as private citizens, they raise serious First Amendment concerns.
On March 19, 2020, the Knight Institute submitted a FOIA request for records related to these CDC and White House policies. The Institute filed this lawsuit to expedite and enforce the request.
Status: The CDC completed its processing of responsive records on July 6, 2020, and the Knight Institute is now considering possible challenges to withholdings.
Case Information: Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. CDC, No. 1:20-cv-2761 (S.D.N.Y.).