A few conservative-leaning outlets and pundits — notably the less consistently Trump-friendly ones — treated Bright’s allegations seriously. For some time, the Drudge Report’s top link read “WHISTLEBLOWER OF DOOM! ‘We’re In Deep S**t.’” Fox News anchor Bret Baier called Bright’s testimony “significant”.
But that was one drop in the right-wing content ocean that day, noted the former White House official.
“He’s not someone who is relevant enough to move the needle,” the person said. “Coronavirus, China, Obamagate, Flynn, fake news, Biden, elections, Clinton, etc. They take precedence over some guy who was going to get reassigned anyway.”
Indeed, conservatives frequently pointed to mainstream media reporting indicating Bright’s ouster was already underway before the pandemic, due to clashes with department leaders. And according to public documents, Bright also asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve emergency use of the drug for coronavirus patients.
But primarily, they homed in on Bright’s attorneys and the fact that he’s not currently showing up at work.
For legal representation, Bright hired Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, the attorneys who represented Christine Blasey Ford when she accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his Supreme Court nomination — a fact not lost on some pundits. And, others noted, Bright has a guaranteed job running a coronavirus testing initiative at National Institutes of Health but has yet to show up. The White House focused on those details Friday.
“He takes a $285,000 salary,” McEnany told reporters. “That’s extraordinary for a federal government salary, and he is still on taxpayer-funded medical leave so he can work with partisan attorneys to malign this president. So Mr. Bright, he should perhaps show up for the job he currently has.”
Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters who has tracked Fox News and conservative media for over a decade, said the decision to not go all in on Bright showed the priorities of Trump’s media boosters: Get people to stop talking about the mounting death toll of coronavirus, and to start focusing on Trump’s political enemies.
“They do not shy away from going at people when they feel that they have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “I think in this case, they don’t want to talk about coronavirus. They want to talk about something else. And so even when you’re going after a whistleblower who is talking about coronavirus, you’re still talking about that subject.”