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Psaki said it was standard procedure for the CDC to consult outside groups when making recommendations.
"It’s actually longstanding best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations, groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency," press secretary Jen Psaki said. "It doesn't mean they are taking everything they want, or even a percentage of what they want."
"But it’s important to understand the implementation components," Psaki continued. "They do so to ensure that recommendations are feasible and that they adequately address the safety and well-being of the individuals the guidance is aimed to protect. So, the CDC engaged with around 50 stakeholders that are on the front lines in this pandemic and have requisite perspective for the guidance."
Communications obtained by the New York Post through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative group Americans for Public Trust showed numerous emails between top CDC officials and the American Federation of Teachers union just days before the administration released school reopening guidelines in February. The lobbying efforts were a reported success as the Post found at least two instances when "suggestions" were used nearly word-for-word within the CDC’s guidelines.
The CDC had been prepared to allow in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates. But at the suggestion of the union, the guidelines were adjusted to include a provision that said, "In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary."
The union further requested that teachers be granted remote work access for those "who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk." Similar provisions were included for "staff who have a household member" that is considered high risk to the virus.
Conservatives cried foul that the CDC had consulted the union.
"The CDC bent over backwards to incorporate the demands of the special interests, namely teachers unions. Is this science? If this is the case, why did the CDC not also take input from parents in helping guide their recommendations?" Laura Zorc of Building Education for Students Together told Fox News.
"The CDC is a thoroughly politicized agency," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Monday on Fox News.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten hit back against the New York Post on Sunday.
"Once again the NY Post has a hit piece out on AFT - this time that is trying to make everyday advocacy look nefarious," Weingarten wrote on Twitter.
"Our job is to advocate for our members,students [and] communities. And in this pandemic we have fought for safety [and] resources 24/7.This article describes basic advocacy. It's not mysterious or clandestine. It’s routine. And this CDC wants feedback from stakeholders including teachers," she continued.
Fox News' Evie Fordham contributed to this report.