Dr. Deborah Birx has said there were some staff in former president Donald Trump’s White House who believed COVID-19 was a hoax.
In an interview with on CBS News’ Face The Nation, Birx spoke about the challenges she faced while working with the Trump White House on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were people who definitely believed that this was a hoax,” Birx, the former coordinator of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, told Margaret Brennan when asked if there were coronavirus deniers in the Trump White House.
Pressed on why, Birx said: “I think because the information was confusing at the beginning, I think because we didn’t talk about the spectrum of disease… they saw people get COVID and be fine, and then they had us talking about how severe the disease is and how it could cause these unbelievable fatalities of our American public.”
Birx claimed Trump “appreciated the gravity” of the pandemic in March last year, but said the president was being fed information that wasn’t coming from her.
“It took a while after I arrived in the White House to remove all the ancillary data that was coming in,” she told Brennan.
“There was parallel data streams coming into the White House that were not transparently utilized and I needed to stop that.”
She added: “I saw the president presenting graphs that I never made…Someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president.”
Birx said she “censored” by the Trump administration and wishes she had been more outspoken, particularly on the issue of testing. “I didn’t know how far I could push the envelope,” she said.
Birx also insisted that her role on the Trump task force was not political. “I thought that I could be helpful, which is the only reason I go and do anything,” she said.
She also said she believes the former president’s language had played a significant role in “derailing” the response to the pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S.
“When you have a pandemic where you’re relying on every American to change their behavior, communication is absolutely key,” she said.
“And so every time a statement was made by a political leader that wasn’t consistent with public health needs, that derailed our response. It is also why I went out on the road because I wasn’t censored on the road.”
Birx announced last month that she would retire, after it was reported that she had traveled out of state over Thanksgiving weekend, even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was urging Americans to avoid family gatherings and travel over the holiday.
In a statement last month, Birx said she was accompanied by family members to her property in Delaware, but insisted the purpose of the visit was to winterize with property and not to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Birx told Brennan she plans to retire from her current role at the CDC in the next four to six weeks.
“It hurt my family… all of this,” Birx added. “This tested my resilience because it tested my family.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, has also spoken about how he was kept from speaking about the pandemic on national media by the Trump administration.
He told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Friday that he was “blocked” from going on her show. On Thursday, he told reporters that Trump often put him in an “uncomfortable” position, and that the new administration felt “liberating.”