"I am adamantly in support of and committed to protecting the legal rights of every single employee within the FDA or any organization that I am associated with," FDA supremo Andy von Eschenbach said at Thursday's hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
Great, thanks Andy.
During a June 2006 meeting, von Eschenbach told a group of 30 to 40 employees that anyone who went against the "team" could end up being "traded," according to accounts by agency whistleblowers, including Dr. David Ross.
During Thursday's hearing, von Eschenbach apologized to Ross, who now works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, if his comments had been misunderstood. The FDA head then told lawmakers he wanted to foster an environment - "if you will, a locker room" - where people with diverse points of view and different perspectives could debate, vigorously and aggressively, any problems or issues.
Ross said in February that he left the FDA "rather than be silenced."
Von Eschenbach went on to add: "When people don't choose to participate in that and aren't willing to be a part of that and simply express opinions independent of that, I don't think that's helpful to the process."
Ross told reporters during a break in Thursday's hearing that that qualifying statement "sends a very unfortunate message."