HHS wanted A-list celebrities for an ad campaign to 'inspire hope' amid the pandemic. It got Dennis Quaid.

Dennis Quaid.
(Image credit: Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

Before his abrupt departure from the Department of Health and Human Services, former spokesperson Michael Caputo had a big idea. The department would round up more than 30 A-list celebrities to "inspire hope" amid the coronavirus pandemic, and nabbed $300 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make it happened, Politico reports.

HHS envisioned Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and others recording messages for their ad campaign. "But they ended up with only Dennis Quaid, CeCe Winans and Hasidic singer Shulem Lemmer" — and Quaid has already quit, Politico writes.

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To fund the ad campaign, which Caputo said President Trump "demanded," the former HHS spokesperson reportedly transferred $300 million from the CDC and used it to pay marketing firms tasked with producing at least 20 PSAs by Election Day. So far, "it's been a total mess," one person involved in the process told Politico. "The team should have been recording one celebrity per day. Instead, they've been only recording one per week or, actually, less," they said. Even talks with Dr. Mehmet Oz — a former advocate for the discredited coronavirus treatment hydroxychloroquine — fell through, while one celebrity's representative said it would "be malpractice" to collaborate with the Trump administration.

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"This is a boondoggle," one HHS official added. "We're in the middle of a pandemic … We could use that quarter of a billion dollars on buying PPE, not promoting PSAs with C-list celebrities." Read more at Politico.

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Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn is a graduate of Syracuse University, with degrees in magazine journalism and information technology, along with hours to earn another degree after working at SU's independent paper The Daily Orange. She's currently recovering from a horse addiction while living in New York City, and likes to share her extremely dry sense of humor on Twitter.