Dr. Birx has been historically criticized by Democrats for previously defending and choosing not to correct President Trump during her time in the White House. Dr. Birx has also received some criticism from the right as well, with former President Trump blasting her.
In a CNN documentary that aired on March 28, a number of former President Donald Trump’s chief medical officials spoke out about the nature of dealing with the pandemic in the Trump White House.
The documentary included one of the first televised interviews with Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator at the time, since she left the White House in January. Birx said that the death toll, which has now passed more than 550,000 total deaths in the country, could have been dramatically decreased if further measures had been put in place.
“I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse,” Dr. Birx told CNN. “There were about a hundred thousand deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
Dr. Birx has been historically criticized by Democrats for previously defending and choosing not to correct President Trump during her time in the White House. In an interview with Dr. Birx in March of 2020 she said that President Trump had been “attentive to the scientific literature and the details,” despite a number of false claims being made by Trump, most notably that the virus would “disappear.”
The tone from the left hasn’t shifted much from this new interview, with many saying that her position of power in the administration offered her a chance to help limit the eventual death toll.
Chris Lu, the Labor Secretary under former President Barack Obama, tweeted, “When we’re finally past this pandemic, we owe it to the victims to do a complete investigation of how this crisis was mismanaged.”
Dr. Birx has also received some criticism from the right as well, with former President Trump blasting her, along with her colleague Dr. Anthony Fauci in a statement, calling the two of them “self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations,” also saying that “If it were up to them, we’d currently be locked in our basements as our country suffered through a financial depression.”
But the criticism from her old boss isn’t all new. In the CNN interview, Dr. Birx also said that she had a “very uncomfortable conversation” with Trump after speaking out publicly last August about the realities of the spread of COVID-19.
“That was a very difficult time, because everybody in the White House was upset with that interview and the clarity that I brought about the epidemic,” she told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Following the clash in August, Dr. Birx changed course, traveling the country and talking to leaders at the state and local level about public health measures, a message she says the Trump administration did not want to come from the White House.
But some have defended Dr. Birx’s staying on at the White House as an act of courage, not of cowardice. Dr. Fauci said in a CNN interview that Dr. Birx “was in a tough position,” adding, “you really need to cut her some slack.”
Additionally, former Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who worked under Trump with Dr. Birx, took to Twitter on Monday to defend her, saying that “It took more courage for her to stay than to leave, and people who weren’t there have no clue how much worse it could’ve been w/o her.”
Other interviews in the documentary gave the White House medical experts the opportunity to further confirm things that were widely accepted already.
Dr. Fauci, who is still working in the White House for President Joe Biden, blamed China for not being open with the rest of the world about the severity of the virus. This goes largely in hand with frustration voiced by the World Health Organization (WHO) that China is continuing to interfere with efforts at transparency.
Dr. Robert Redfield and Admiral Brett Giroir said that early issues with testing, as well as the attitude from White House officials that testing made the president look bad by increasing the confirmed number of cases, resulted in serious issues in the response from the administration.
They also said that the public relations issue wasn’t the only one and that there weren’t as many tests as some top officials had claimed there were.
Ultimately, the interviews outlined the tough choice that health officials in the Trump White House were faced with – align with the president’s messaging or leave and risk being replaced by someone the unpredictable president found more agreeable.
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