Contribute Try STAT+ Today

Not being publicly outspoken enough about issues with the Covid-19 response may have been Deborah Birx’s biggest mistake, the former White House coronavirus task force coordinator said in a 30-minute interview that aired Sunday morning on CBS News’s Face the Nation.

In her conversation with CBS’s Margaret Brennan, Birx shed some new light on what was happening behind the scenes of the Trump administration’s pandemic response — a response that has been widely criticized for being disconnected from the advice of scientists on and outside of the task force. Birx said she had chosen not to do the interview until after President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

During her time as the leader of the task force, Birx said that she saw former president Donald Trump present data and graphs she had not compiled and said only two people in the White House routinely wore masks: herself and a member of her support staff. At times, her private advice to governors contradicted what the federal government was telling the public. She didn’t know how sick the President became after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 in October. And she said that at the White House, “there were people who definitely believed that [Covid-19] was a hoax.”

advertisement

The interview comes just days after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing that she couldn’t say in the moment whether Birx was still on President Biden’s Covid-19 team. Birx previously said she planned to retire after Biden’s inauguration.

“I understood that to go into the White House and try to support a comprehensive coronavirus response by utilizing the strength of the federal government would be a terminal event for my federal career, which is part of the reason why I didn’t want to do it,” Birx said in Sunday’s interview.

advertisement

Birx said that while she was publicly supporting the president’s efforts — at one point praising “his ability to analyze and integrate data” — she was concerned that White House staff were inappropriately interpreting data about the effectiveness of wearing masks. She also said she “had very little exposure” to President Trump and instead primarily communicated with the vice president, and with state governors on a weekly call.

“You have to figure out how to get that message out when you can’t get it out from the head of the country,” Birx said. “The vice president knew what I was doing.”

“You mean he knew that you were telling the governors privately to do things that the president publicly was making light of?” Brennan asked.

“He knew what I was doing,” Birx continued.

On social media, many criticized Birx for only recently repudiating some of the efforts of the task force and the previous administration.

“She was more committed to keeping her job than actually doing it well,” tweeted Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown.

However, Birx said, “what was reassuring to me all along is I knew this would be studied. I knew that the emails, the reports that I wrote, the request to expand testing, the how to improve therapeutics, all of that, all of that would eventually come to light. Maybe not in my lifetime.”

“You feel you’ll be vindicated?” Brennan asked.

“I’m not looking to be vindicated,” Birx said.

  • The apology tour of Dr Deborah Birx has gone down with a thud–without the visible yellow streaks on her back, I cannot appreciate how she allowed an ignorant narcissist with the horrible tan and balding head walk all over Americans thinking we are stupid to follow the lies or lack thereof on the Corona virus. Whether Dr Birx could have done something or not, it was her duty to the American people to have been truthful and bold. Instead she allowed to be backed up against the wall, nodding her head, and race to pick up her paycheck. NOW she’s going around saying all that she knew? She should have followed that idiot to Florida. God help you Dr Birx. Because we sure can’t.

  • I think that anyone not in that position had to walk a very tenuous path to do the greatest good; let the person who has done it better throw the first stone. So many who know nothing seem to know so much. So many opinions, so much ignorance.

  • Science and politics do not mix. Dr. Fauci also said he did not want to speak against the President. So, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci served the President and looked away. No apologies will bring back all those people who perished under their watch. If we do not trust our scientists who do we trust? If they had resigned they would have saved many lives. Is it too much to ask our scientists to stick to science and rise above politics? What happened to the medical ethics: “First, do no harm”?

    • Trust the scientist who do not work for government. They are a lot of scientist that got interview on news that gives honest opinion about the virus being airborne. Not only airborne, but you can also create a bubble around you that people can walk into on the line in groceries.

  • Thank you, Dr. Birx, for doing your utmost under incredibly difficult circumstances. While “no good deed goes unpunished” is rearing its ugly head, I hope many of us will realize the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe you.

    • Tell that to the family of those who dies because of her wrong advised about mask and the young people immune to dead from virus.

  • Brix, stop making excuses. You told the public early on, sometime after Feb, that those who does not show symptoms do not need to wear mask, when doctors in Asia were saying as early as Feb that the virus is airborne. Then you are also saying that younger people are fine and it only affect old people.

    Later on, when these data prove to be wrong, your pathetic excuse is you don’t have enough data.

    Please remove yourself from public service. You have done enough harm. One has to wonder how many people died because of your poor advise.

  • She was the only scientist that was allowed to communicate to the governors. In these communications, she transmitted the scientific data and advised the governors what they could do to mitigate the pandemic. There was no one alive that could curb the blizzard of misinformation that emanated from Trump. I personally would not have been able to do better. My instinct would be to argue with Trump and I would not have lasted a day.

  • She should have spoke up more ! She should have made a greater effort to get the truth out to the public even if it risked getting ‘fired’ ! She could have always sued for retribution. By steppping up to speak ‘truth over power’ she could have helped save lives and help shorten or lessen the pandemic.

  • Aren’t you the same “Dr Deborah Birx” that sat quietly, smiled, and nodding
    when Trump made his insane press conference about “injecting sunlight inside
    the body as a COVID cure”?

    I thought so.

    You didn’t nothing. You are as awful as he is.

    • Actually she is worst. She is the one giving the misguided advised of not having to wear mask if you don’t have symptoms. She was also saying that younger people are fine, both of which prove to be false at the expense of lives.

    • Susan, watch the interview before making uninformed comments. She addresses that very scenario in her interview. This incredibly caring, intelligent woman who dedicated her life to the American people lost her career over people like yourself spreading misinformation.

Comments are closed.