Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, came under fire for tweeting that the organization would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study by honoring the “suffering & sacrifice” of hundreds of African American men.
In order to understand the progression of the infection and whether black men in Macon County, Alabama, were more affected than white men, the US Public Health Service examined 399 black men who had syphilis between 1932 and 1972.
The participants, who were mostly low-income sharecroppers, were only told that they had “bad blood,” not that they had syphilis.
As a control group, 201 additional men without syphilis were also investigated.
Even after penicillin was widely used to treat syphilis in the 1940s, the Tuskegee study participants were not allowed to use it.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a Senate hearing on November 4.
During the experiment, more than 100 men passed away from the effects of syphilis.
“The Tuskegee Syphilis Study came to an end 50 years ago this year. To honor the 623 African American men, their suffering and sacrifice, and our dedication to ethical research and practice, I will be joined by colleagues and leaders in the field of public health tomorrow, Walensky said on Twitter.
The event is scheduled for this Wednesday and will “include important conversations on crucial mission of addressing health equity,” according to a posting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was linked to.
The unethical practices of the experiment were finally exposed in reports that surfaced in 1972, but it wasn’t until 1997 that former President Bill Clinton issued an apology to the men who participated in the study.
Walensky’s tweet was referred to as “disgusting” by Christina Pushaw, the rapid response coordinator for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
the tweet about the 50th anniversary of the Tuskegee syphilis experiments from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
“The person who created and approved this tweet most likely has a higher position than an intern. Given that it’s on the CDC director’s official account, the social media manager for the CDC—a high-level government position—is most likely responsible. And I assume @CDCDirector gave her own approval. Terrible,” she pronounced.
User Hesh Ginsburg commented, “Honestly, Walensky should probably resign over that tweet. Oh my cow.”
One person on social media noted that the word “sacrifice” was unfortunate and inadequate.
“Sacrifice implies uninformed consent. It also implies that there was some benefit from the cruelty, which is strange considering that the only finding of the “research” was that untreated syphilis is harmful, according to a Twitter user. “I abhor being here.”
Red State, a conservative website, called Walensky’s message “clueless propaganda.”
The website also connected the CDC’s assertion of “ethical research” to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that it was a commitment that had been “completely botched” for at least the previous three years as they promoted absurd COVID prevention techniques.
A reasonable person might doubt Walensky’s judgment regarding the COVID response, and wonder why she’s still employed, concurred another Twitter user, Clifton Duncan. “If Walensky has the audacity to reframe one of the most infamously unethical and racist medical experiments in American history as some sort of noble sacrifice,” he added.
In a July 2021 interview, Walensky, 53, said that COVID-19 may be “just a few mutations” away from being able “to evade our vaccine in terms of how it protects us from severe disease and death” — without noting the scenario was highly unlikely. This statement drew criticism for Walensky’s muddled messaging earlier in the Biden administration.