Despite a campaign promise to “crush COVID”, the Biden administration has appointed health secretaries Rachel Levine of Pennsylvania and Robert Gordon of Michigan to serve as Assistant Secretaries of Health and Human Services under former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Biden’s appointment of leaders from three of the five states under investigation for controversial lockdowns, misleading death counts, and reckless policies that forced the elderly to remain in care facilities where the Coronavirus spread rapidly raise questions as to what criteria was used in these appointments. 

Last week, Michigan’s former Health Secretary, who left his job under a cloud of controversy  surrounding deadly Covid-19 policies, was nominated by President Joe Biden for a federal post at the same rank to which Biden had appointed the embattled former Pennsylvania Health Secretary, Rachel Levine. 

Robert Gordon is in line to become assistant secretary for financial resources within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It is an honor to be asked to serve, and I look forward to working on behalf of President Biden and Secretary (Xavier) Becerra’s agenda,” Gordon said in a statement issued by a HHS spokeswoman. The nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. 

In Michigan, Gordon was Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first director of health and human services, issuing many of the state’s Covid-19 mandates in 2020. He repeatedly defended the efficacy and necessity of Michigan’s controversial lockdown mandates, which lasted the longest in the Midwest and resulted in higher per-capita death rates than “open” states. 

In January of 2021, Whitmer abruptly asked Gordon to resign. As a condition of his departure, Gordon received a separation agreement that included a $155,000 payment and a confidentiality clause that has drawn the ire of state legislators and investigative journalists. Gordon eventually testified when subpoenaed by the legislature, stating the governor asked him to resign due to disagreements over how best to defeat Covid-19. 

[Robert Gordon] repeatedly defended the efficacy and necessity of Michigan’s controversial lockdown mandates, which lasted the longest in the Midwest and resulted in higher per-capita death rates than ‘open’ states.

In March, the Senate confirmed the Biden administration’s appointment of former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, also at the rank of assistant secretary of health and human services. Levine is another former state health secretary whose tenure ended amid controversial Covid-19 lockdown policies that are being investigated for their lethal consequences on the state’s elderly population. 

During Levine’s confirmation, U.S. House Republicans sought to ascertain more details about the state’s missing nursing home data ahead of her confirmation. At the same time, the Pennsylvania House and Senate majority called on the state Department of Health to provide more details about its overall approach to nursing homes, citing Spotlight PA reporting on how historically weak oversight and failed plans hampered the response.

Pennsylvania and Michigan are two of the five states under investigation for the reporting of fatalities and/or fatal nursing home policies during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Pennsylvania, the legislative investigation is focused on Secretary Levine and Gov. Wolf’s oversight of long-term care facilities, where as many as 12,000 people reportedly died during the height of the pandemic. 

Wolf enacted a mandatory admission policy on March 18, 2020, a week before Gov. Cuomo enacted a similar policy in New York. At the time, Wolf said “nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive re-admissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable.”

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Wolf credited Dr. Levine with the policy. She stated the policy was enacted to protect hospitals from being overwhelmed by the volume of Covid-19 patients. The order added that nursing home admissions “may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.” 

Before Levine became President Biden’s Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, her tenure as Pennsylvania Health Secretary during the Covid-19 pandemic was fraught with controversy. In April 2020, the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association disputed Levine’s reporting of coronavirus deaths in the state. As the officials tasked with determining cause of death in each county, the coroners’ association said that Pennsylvania’s official total of Covid-19 deaths could represent a significant under-count of cases due to problems with the reporting system. The issue came to light when it was noticed that Covid-19 deaths being reported by Levine were not on county coroner records.

“I think we’re falsely inflating the numbers,” said Charles Kiessling Jr., the Lycoming County coroner and president of the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, referring to Levine’s explanation that state data included “probable deaths.” 

Three weeks later, Levine faced another scandal when she took her 95-year-old mother out of a personal care home and into a hotel, in contrast to her own statewide guidelines. 

Levine… took her 95-year-old mother out of a personal care home and into a hotel, in contrast to her own statewide guidelines.

Not only do these two appointments raise concerns over the track record and qualifications of Biden administration appointments, but also begs the question of requisite qualifications state governors use when selecting key appointees to oversee essential departments. 

Before Gov. Whitmer appointed Gordon as Michigan health secretary, Gordon served in the Obama administration as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. A lawyer, Gordon had also previously worked for the New York City Department of Education.

In Pennsylvania, Levine had served as a licensed pediatrician, but her background specialized mainly in mental health. Neither Levine nor Gordon has a background in health system management or public health prior to their respective political appointments.

A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine.

3 thoughts on “Biden administration appoints second state health official under Covid-19 investigation”

  1. Is there any evidence whatsoever that these appointees bare any responsibility for any so-called “mishandlings” or is the author suggesting they are simply guilty by association? The article itself doesn’t make a convincing case that they do bare responsibility for any wrongdoing.

    If Gordon says “the governor asked him to resign due to disagreements over how best to defeat Covid-19” then… wouldn’t that suggest he ISN’T necessarily supportive of the lockdowns Michigan put in place, which the author labels as “controversial”
    (side note: Why are we supposed to believe these lockdowns were controversial? Is it because they inspired radical right-wing nut jobs from the “Wolverine Watchmen” militia to try kidnapping the governor last fall? (A plot which Trump wouldn’t even condemn directly) Was anything actually considered “controversial” about the lockdowns outside of this circle of radical militia members?)

    As far as Levine goes – I’m confused because one paragraph states “the coroners’ association said that Pennsylvania’s official total of Covid-19 deaths could represent a significant UNDER-COUNT” followed a paragraph later with “I think we’re falsely INFLATING the numbers,” said … president of the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, referring to Levine’s explanation that state data included “probable deaths.”

    So are the official numbers a “significant under-count” or are they “inflated”? Maybe I’m missing something but I’m genuinely confused.

    What I also don’t understand is “Levine… took her 95-year-old mother out of a personal care home and into a hotel” – How is it a ‘scandal’ or even against her own guidelines to exercise her freedom to choose where to live? Do her guidelines say that the elderly should NOT be allowed to leave personal care homes? I don’t think so. The guidelines are for those who choose to stay in these facilities. This is a nothingburger.

  2. Maybe they were promised positions in the administration to assure they squash the economies of those states with their feckless policies that endangered people not protected them. Now the promise is being fulfilled.

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