USA abandons $250M deal to vaccinate Santa Claus

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USA abandons $250M deal to vaccinate Santa Claus

Postby toucana on October 27th, 2020, 6:17 am 

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The Department of Health and Human Services has abandoned a deal to vaccinate Santa Claus performers as part of a $250-million taxpayer-funded public relations blitz, The Wall Street Journal reports.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/10/santas-scrooged-by-trump-admin-after-bizarre-vaccine-deal-goes-south/

According to the nixed Santa plan, performers would have received special early access to a future vaccine against the pandemic coronavirus. In exchange, the Santa Clauses, Mrs. Clauses, and accompanying elves would have promoted the vaccine to the public and participated in regional holiday events organized by the Trump administration.

The deal was reportedly gifted from the troubled mind of Michael Caputo, the HHS spokesperson installed by the White House in April. Caputo had no background in health when he took the position. Instead, he was reportedly placed in the department as a way for the Trump administration to assert more control over HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Caputo is a Trump loyalist, protégé of Roger Stone, and former Moscow-based political adviser who worked on public relations for Vladimir Putin.

In September, Caputo took medical leave from the department after a series of bizarre and alarming comments. For instance, in a Facebook live video that month, Caputo claimed government scientists were engaging in “sedition” and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention harbored a “resistance unit.” He also made mention of long “shadows” in his DC apartment and warned that left-wing “hit-squads” were preparing a post-election armed insurrection. He noted that his “mental health has definitely failed.”

Of the money taken from the world’s premier public health agency during a historic public health crisis, $250 million went to a contract with Fors Marsh Group, an Arlington, Virginia, market-research and communications firm. The firm was to help with the campaign’s central feature of video interviews between celebrities and administration officials, who would discuss the pandemic and the federal response.

Caputo and his team initially hoped to include big-name celebrities, such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Bon Jovi. But much of the plan fell apart amid disorganization and tepid interest from those celebrities.

Before things went south, Caputo also intended the campaign to include a Christmas miracle. Merry Santa Clauses would act as holly-jolly vaccine advocates and in exchange get to jump the immunization line.

In a call with Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, Caputo could hardly contain his glee for the plan. “If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is,” Caputo said on the call, which was recorded by Erwin and provided to the WSJ. “I cannot wait to tell the president," Caputo said at another point about the plan. “He’s going to love this.”

After the cancellation, Erwin told the WSJ that it was “extremely disappointing... This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen."

Erwin said that nearly 100 Santas had signed up for the federal gig, which he was told would be finalized by mid-September. “They may have been fibbing a little bit to Santa,” he added.
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