FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a news briefing on the administration’s response to the coronavirus at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration is considering replacing its secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, because of early missteps in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Wall Street Journal and Politico reported on Saturday.
A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, denied it and said the HHS under Azar continues to lead on a number of the president’s priorities.
“Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19,” Deere said.
The Journal, citing six people familiar with the discussions, said frustration with Azar was growing but the administration was reluctant to make big changes while the country was seeking to stop the virus, which has killed more than 53,000 people in the United States.
Politico said the short list of names to replace Azar included Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma and deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan.
Asked for a response, HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said: “Secretary Azar is busy responding to a global, public health crisis and doesn’t have time for palace intrigue.”
Reporting by Diane Bartz and Steve Holland; Editing by Daniel Wallis