Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that Americans should consider forgiving Dr. Deborah Birx, the former response coordinator for the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force who has drawn flak for not vocally debunking the 45th president’s more outlandish ideas for combating COVID-19, including injecting people with disinfectant.
“She was in a tough situation,” Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “You really need to understand, she was living in the White House. She had an office in the lower level of the West Wing. And I guess, obviously, you say she could have done more, but it was really tough on her. She was a military person. She understands the chain of command. And I think if you ask her now, she probably would say she should have done more, but you really need to cut her some slack, the way I do.”
Birx, who has recently gone public with statements arguing that the White House could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives at the onset of the pandemic with better coordination, gave a similar argument in March during an ABC News interview.
At the time, she said Trump’s bizarre suggestions about disinfectant and injecting the body with light to “cure” COVID-19 had blindsided her, but 30 years of military service had trained her to obey her commanding officer and prevented her from speaking up more.
Cuomo countered Fauci by asking the infectious disease expert if he personally thought he should have done more to amplify the dangers of COVID-19 and notify the public that Trump was “lying” and attempting to downplay the dangers of the virus.
“I don’t think you can just come out and say this guy is lying,” Fauci replied. “I don’t know how good that would have been. But I certainly clashed with the president, you know that. We had a considerable amount of stress and tension between us when I spoke out against him with hydroxychloroquine, when he said this is going to end tomorrow, it’s going to go away. I said no, it’s not just going to go away.”
Fauci said many of the recommendations he and Birx had offered the former president “caused a lot of stress and strain,” adding that he wanted to put the past behind him and move forward in fighting COVID-19.
Critics of Birx have called her an “enabler” of Donald Trump, and the former president had no kind words for the immunology expert in a press statement that he issued Monday, calling her and Fauci “self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations, which I fortunately almost always overturned.”
“Dr. Birx is a proven liar with very little credibility left,” Trump said, insisting that Fauci would always “talk negatively about her and, in fact, would ask not to be in the same room with her.”