Staffers at the Food and Drug Administration were told that office TVs were switched from CNN to Fox News by order of the "current administration," according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The email was sent on Wednesday to researchers at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the FDA branch that regulates medical products.
"The reason for the change is that a decision from the current administration administrative officials has requested that all monitors, under our control, on the White Oak Campus, display FOX news," reads the email, which was sent by an employee in charge of the digital displays. "Sorry for the inconvenience, but I am unable to change any of the monitors to any other news source at this time."
The staffer who sent the email about the digital displays would not provide further details to BuzzFeed News, saying he "cannot say anything on that subject matter at this time."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, an FDA spokesperson denied the channel change had been ordered.
"There was no directive or memorandum from the Administration that went out to employees about broadcast news channels displaying on monitors in common areas throughout the FDA’s White Oak campus," said the FDA spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News.
A CBER employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News the email came after multiple employees spoke out against the channel change.
"A lot of the staff were very upset about the change," the CBER employee said. "After some complaints about the switch, we all received an email saying that the current administration ordered the change."
The CBER employee said some of the TVs have since been turned off, but she did not know by who.
Another FDA employee who wished to remain anonymous, who works for the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, located in the same building as CBER, told BuzzFeed News he noticed the TVs had been switched to Fox News on Wednesday.
"We didn’t get any notice of the change, and it’s entirely possible that the change wasn’t a policy decision," he said. "The channel was changed on Wednesday,
the same day that HHS Secretary Price gave a major speech. It’s entirely possible that the channel was changed to Fox because they were covering that speech, and whoever controls the monitors just didn’t switch things back."
He has not heard any complaints about the channel change from his CDRH workers.
"It’s been my experience that our office culture takes our role as an impartial agency very seriously," he said. "I might sound like a shill for reciting a mission statement, but it’s true – our ability to cooperate with all political factions depends on us being as non-partisan as possible. Our ability to keep the public trust depends on it as well."
Still, he is concerned about what it means for Fox News to be the reigning news source of the FDA headquarters.
"My biggest fear about having a 'right wing' news source playing in our halls is that it will drive away some people on the left who are already suspicious about FDA being a shill for big pharma," he said. "We put a lot of work into disseminating health and safety information, but it’s not helpful for people who think it’s all a ploy and ignore it."
The email's existence was first reported by Paul Thacker on Twitter:
Here is the full text of the email:
Good Morning, CBER Researchers,
Please excuse me for sending this out to your entire group via your listserv, but I was alerted by a member in your group and I wanted to let everyone know that the reason for the change from CNN to FOX.
The reason for the change is that a decision from the current administration administrative officials has requested that all monitors, under our control, on the White Oak Campus, display FOX news.
Sorry for the inconvenience, but I am unable to change any of the monitors to any other news source at this time.
If you work in the federal government and have been told your office TVs must display Fox News, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia Reinstein is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Julia Reinstein at email@example.com.
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