WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s administration is drawing criticism for a nationwide coronavirus mailing that features the president’s name more prominently than the social distancing guidance public health officials want Americans to follow.
“President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America” is emblazoned on one side of the mailing in upper case blue letters. The other side of the card includes recommendations, such as that Americans avoid restaurants and large groups.
Critics said the prominent display of Trump’s name applies a political veneer to the mailing. The postcard, sent to 130 million households in an election year, is stamped with logos of the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Trump is using the CDC and the post office … to promote his own interests,” said Michael Carome, director of the health research group at the left-leaning Public Citizen. “He’s using the levers of government, the agencies at his disposal, to promote him.”
Carome said that because the president’s name is displayed so conspicuously, the document could be misread as a piece of campaign literature and easily tossed aside by recipients, especially those who do not support the president. Public health guidelines, he said, should be free from even the sniff of political promotion.
White House spokesman Judd Deere confirmed that the Trump administration mailed the document and noted that it included guidelines crafted by the White House Coronavirus Task Force on the flip side. The White House did not respond to criticism about the conspicuous use of the president’s name on the document.
The U.S. Postal Service said in a statement that the mailing started going out March 21 to every residential location in the country, including PO boxes. A USPS spokesman said the service is “working with” the CDC on reimbursement should the Postal Service choose to charge.
Taxpayer-funded mail is a perennial issue in Washington, usually for members of Congress. Lawmakers have the ability to send official mail to constituents under their names at taxpayers’ expense, a practice called “franking.” The messages in those documents are highly regulated, and lawmakers are allowed to use their names.
Congress spent $16.9 million on official mail in the 2014 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Trump, who has been attending near-daily, televised White House briefings, announced this month his administration is working with television networks, online service providers and the Ad Council to run public service advertising in an effort to inform Americans about the virus.
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