Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said in an interview broadcast Sunday that she had to grapple with COVID-19 deniers in the White House and that someone gave the president “parallel” streams of data that conflicted with hers.
Defending her tenure, Dr. Birx told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that she was at times censored by the Trump administration, but denied ever withholding information.
Birx said she saw Trump “presenting graphs that I never made” and that “someone out there or someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president.”
She added that in the White House, “there were people who definitely believed that this was a hoax.”
Birx did not identify the COVID-19 deniers and said she did not know who was presenting the parallel data to Trump, but said she realizes now that Trump coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas was providing some of it.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the New York Times that there was a worrying shift in attitudes in the White House in February 2020, as the pandemic started to be felt.
“We were having, you know, the standard kind of scientifically based, public-health-based meetings. Then I started getting anxious that this was not going in the right direction — the anecdotally driven situations, the minimization, the president surrounding himself with people saying things that didn’t make any scientific sense,” Fauci said.
Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said that members of Trump’s inner circle were angered that he started to publicly contradict the president, and started to discredit him and prevent him from talking to the media.
The infectious disease expert also said that Trump expressed disappointment that he wasn’t being more positive.
“There were a couple of times where I would make a statement that was a pessimistic viewpoint about what direction we were going, and the president would call me up and say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you more positive? You’ve got to take a positive attitude. Why are you so negativistic? Be more positive,'” Fauci said.
Fauci also talked about the threats that he and his family received, and said that one day he opened an envelope containing a powder, and a hazmat team had to be brought in to decontaminate him. The powder was later found to be benign.
Fauci said he did not consider quitting: “Never. Never. Nope.”
“I felt that if I stepped down, that would leave a void. Someone’s got to not be afraid to speak out the truth,” Fauci said.
However, Fauci refused to answer whether he thought Trump had cost the country tens of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands, of lives with his handling of the pandemic.
“I can’t comment on that. People always ask that and… making the direct connection that way, it becomes very damning. I just want to stay away from that. Sorry,” Fauci said.
More than 25 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in the US and at least 418,000 people have died since the pandemic began.