Birx Reveals ‘Very Uncomfortable’ Call With Trump After She Raised Alarms On COVID-19

Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on April 28, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
|
March 28, 2021 12:22 p.m.
EDITORS' NOTE: TPM is making our COVID-19 coverage free to all readers during this national health crisis. If you’d like to support TPM's reporters, editors and staff, the best way to do so is to become a member.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who previously served as the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator under the Trump administration, recalled having a “very uncomfortable” and “very difficult” phone call with former President Trump after warning about widespread cases of COVID-19 nation wide during an interview on CNN set to air Sunday night.

In a preview of her prerecorded interview on CNN that will air Sunday night, Birx revealed the “very uncomfortable” conversation she had with Trump over the phone following her appearance on the network in August, when she warned that the country is “in a new phase” of the COVID-19 pandemic in light of widespread infection rates.

“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread,” Birx told CNN in August. “It’s into the rural as equal urban areas.”

Birx said the interview she did with CNN in August prompted “horrible pushback” from the Trump administration.

“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,” Birx said in her interview set to air on CNN Sunday night.

Birx added that Trump called her after her CNN interview in August, and that the phone call itself was “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult to hear.”

Pressed on whether she was threatened during the call, Birx appeared to simply reply that it was a “very uncomfortable conversation.”

At the time of Birx’s interview with CNN in August, Trump misleadingly claimed that the US had tamped down the COVID-19 pandemic by pointing to New Zealand’s recent coronavirus outbreak. According to Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand recorded more than 1,300 coronavirus infections and 22 deaths related to the infectious disease — the US at the time recorded more than 5.5 million COVID-19 cases and 173,000 fatalities amid the pandemic.

Birx also told CNN during her interview set to air Sunday night that the rate of COVID-19 fatalities could have been “decreased substantially” if cities and states continued adhering to mitigation efforts that were implemented last spring to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse,” Birx said. “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.”

Birx’s interview set to air on CNN Sunday night isn’t the first time the former White House coronavirus response coordinator revealed troubling details on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Last January, Birx expressed regrets over failing to push back at Trump’s unfounded claims on COVID-19 during an extensive interview on CBS, when she claimed that there was a “parallel data stream coming into the White House that were not transparently utilized.”

“I saw the President presenting graphs that I never made,” Birx told CBS in January. “So, I know that someone out there or someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president.”

Watch Birx’s remarks below:

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: