Dr. Birx Says She ‘Always’ Thought About Quitting, Talks COVID-19 Deniers in the White House
Dr. Deborah Birx is opening up about her time working as former president Donald Trump's U.S. coronavirus response coordinator.
During a candid interview on CBS' Face the Nation, Birx — who announced last year that she would retire after helping President Joe Biden and his team with their pandemic response amid his transition — shared that quitting was something that was "always" on her mind.
"Why would you want to put yourself through that every day?" she remarked. "I had to ask myself every morning is there something that I think I can do that would be helpful in responding to this pandemic? And it's something I asked myself every night."
In addition to saying that she felt "censored" by the White House, Birx asserted that there were COVID-19 deniers who had Trump's ear.
"There were people who definitely believed that this was a hoax," she said — language which Trump himself echoed last year.
"I saw the president presenting graphs I never made," she added. "I know that someone out there or someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were sent to the president."
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Without specifically mentioning Trump by name, Birx — who was criticized for how she navigated the Trump administration's misinformation — spoke critically of the way some political leaders refused to publicly acknowledge the pandemic's severity.
"When you have a pandemic where you're relying on every American to change their behavior, communication is absolutely key, and so every time a statement was made by a political leader that wasn't consistent with public health needs, that derailed our response," she said. "It is also why I went out on the road, because I wasn't censored on the road."
Birx, who was attacked by Trump after issuing warnings over the summer about the "widespread" phase of infection, said that outside of the White House she had an easier time delivering effective messaging about COVID-19 safety.
"I was able to speak freely about mask mandates, closing bars when you're in the middle of a surge, closing indoor spaces where people are going to take off their mask and be inside," she said.
As for her biggest mistake, Birx said that she wished she had "been more outspoken publicly" from the beginning.
"I always feel like I could have done more," she said. "When you're put into a new situation and you only know one person in the White House, you know, and you don't understand the culture of the White House, it's very difficult to get your footing."
"I'm not making excuses. I'm just saying I didn't know how far I could push the envelope. I'm known for doing that, particularly in private. But it was very difficult for me at day one to really understand that," she added.
Birx, who was the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and a well-respected public health official prior to the pandemic, announced her retirement after she stirred after she stirred controversy for traveling to Deleware over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
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