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March 10th, 2008
07:10 PM ET

Behind the Scenes: The Whistleblower

When I first met Chris De Rosa, he seemed like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  If everything he’s said is true, then I can certainly understand why.

De Rosa has been a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for close to 30 years. He’s now speaking out against his employer claiming the CDC, responsible for protecting the American people, is creating a substantial danger to public health and safety.

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De Rosa, a scientist with the CDC, is claiming that the organization is not acting in the public's interest

I thought our interview with him would never happen.  The CDC has been accused of muzzling De Rosa.  After many e-mails and phone calls, CNN Correspondent David Mattingly was granted permission to speak with him, but that was only half the battle.

De Rosa is a career scientist, not a spokesman.  He has spent decades with the CDC behind the scenes doing research and studies, not granting interviews.  He comes from a culture of deferring to his superiors and defending the CDC. Not speaking out.

But things changed for De Rosa.  As he put it, “I believe in the organization. It's deeply troubling to me to hear these things, leveled at an agency of such a strong tradition of acting in the public's interest.”

We first contacted him nearly two weeks ago.  With great reservation, he spoke to us on the phone about the story.  But he also explained his tough position: He’d recently been demoted, told he was “not being a team player.”  So an on-camera interview might make things worse for him.  The CDC wouldn’t tell us that De Rosa was demoted, saying he’d been “reassigned” and that his pay and status remained the same.

When De Rosa declined to talk on camera, David and I pushed ahead with the story, scheduling an interview with his lawyer.  After that interview, we made another attempt to get De Rosa on camera: To get the full story, viewers deserve to hear from the whistleblower himself.  24 hours later, much to my amazement, De Rosa was sitting down for an interview with us.

What he had to say was shocking.  In the end, I think he agreed to talk to us partly to save his job, but mostly in the hopes that his story could save lives.

– Chuck Hadad, 360° Producer


Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Planet in Peril
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