Nevertheless, the decision by Dr. Hahn to clarify his remarks and to grant a series of media interviews appears to have rankled H.H.S. officials, who saw it as ill-timed, given that the Republican convention was underway. Trump administration officials are often reluctant to publicly admit error out of concern that doing so provides political ammunition to their critics.
Mr. Pines is president of the large health care practice at APCO Worldwide, a public relations and lobbying firm that represents health companies that do business before the F.D.A. He said he did this work on his own, outside of his APCO practice. He would not say how much he was paid, but noted that as a friend to Dr. Hahn, he is willing to continue advising him for free.
Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, which promotes bipartisan political reform, was critical of the contract, noting the potential for conflicts of interest in Mr. Pines’s work for the F.D.A., and his company’s health care client base.
“This notion that, ‘Oh, I’m doing it in my private capacity, on the one hand, and I’m representing health care interests, on the other,’ it doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Ms. McGehee.
The F.D.A. did not respond to requests for comment on Friday about Mr. Pines’s contract or whether it was vetted for conflicts of interest.
Ms. Miller started at the agency on Aug. 17 after a career in both politics and journalism. In 2004, while working for the Department of State, she made headlines after she apparently cut off an interview for a taped segment between Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and her boss, the then Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who could be heard apologizing to Mr. Russert and saying “Emily, get out of the way.” In 2015, reporters cast doubt on whether Ms. Miller had been a victim of a home invasion, a story that she had repeatedly included in public remarks and in a book, “Emily Gets Her Gun: But Obama Wants to Take Yours.”
The decision to hire Ms. Miller as the agency’s top spokeswoman was seen as puzzling by outside observers, given that she had little experience in health care. On May 30, Ms. Miller tweeted, “Remember coronavirus?”