Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, on Wednesday defended her lack of issuing a forceful rebuke of President Trump after the sitting president suggested unproven COVID-19 treatments to the public earlier this year.
During a podcast on ABC News Wednesday, Birx described her interactions with Trump as “respectful in public and very clear in private” when discussing topics related to COVID-19.
Birx, who has come under fire for not disputing Trump’s suggestions of unproven COVID-19 treatments during White House coronavirus task force briefings, insisted that she made “very clear” to Trump her “interpretation of the epidemic” in private remarks.
“I think no one really knows what I’ve done inside the White House,” Birx said. “That will all come to light because — this data — I write a daily report, so it’s very clear, my interpretation of the epidemic.”
Birx recalled that when Trump suggested during a press conference in April to inject disinfectants as a treatment for COVID-19, the President was talking to the DHS scientists when he issued his unsubstantiated statement.
“When he turned to me, I did say ‘not a treatment,’” Birx said. “I stand by that — it is not a treatment, that dialogue was not with me, however.”
Birx cited her experience serving in the military for 29 years as she stressed how she’s “always been very respectful in public and very clear in private.”
“And having come out of the military, our one rule is you’re a soldier, and you follow command until it’s an unlawful order,” Birx said, before adding that in the 10 months she’s worked in the White House, she has “never received an unlawful order.”
“And so I never had to break with that chain of command,” Birx said.
Birx said that she and her colleagues on the White House coronavirus task force have shared their messages regarding the COVID-19 pandemic to the press as well as governors and mayors, who she said the task force has been “very clear” with “in private.”
“Then we also go out and do press and we try to be very clear to the people of their state,” Birx said.
Birx argued that she’s “often found it’s really important” to deliver “something challenging” in private so that you can “work very hard to use everything that you have to convince people of what needs to be done.”
Asked whether she intends to work with the Biden administration when he takes office, Birx replied that she has been “in touch with the transition teams to give them how I see the epidemic in the United States.
“To send them slides and data so that they understand what I’m seeing,” Birx said. “As a civil servant, I would go back to where I came from, I imagine, and it would be up to the Biden administration to decide if I could be any utility … or not.”
Earlier this month, Birx’s colleague on the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that he accepted President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to be the chief medical adviser in his incoming administration “right on the spot.” Fauci had been sidelined by Trump as his public remarks often stood in stark contrast compared to the sitting president’s downplaying of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans thus far.
Listen to Birx’s remarks below