Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House’s Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, on Sunday said that attempts to convey accurate scientific information about the pandemic were “censored.”
Birx, who famously stood behind President Donald Trump when he suggested that Americans could “inject” disinfectant to ward off COVID-19, also said that inaccurate or misleading statements made by political leaders derailed the public response to the pandemic. “It is also why I went out on the road because I wasn’t censored on the road,” she told Margaret Brennan of CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Birx said she saw Trump showing the American public incorrect graphics about the COVID-19 pandemic that she never made, leaving her “convinced there were parallel data streams” given to the then-president. “I think the president appreciated the gravity in March,” said Birx, who now works at the Centers for Disease Control as a special adviser to the Center for Global Health. “It took a while after I arrived in the White House to remove all of the ancillary data that was coming in. I mean, there was parallel data stream coming into the White House that were not transparently utilized. And I needed to stop that.”
Dr. Birx said that she’s certain that “outside advisers, coming to inside advisers” at the White House were supplying President Trump with incomplete data or outright disinformation about the spreading and severity of the coronavirus.
“I saw the president presenting graphs that I never made,” Dr. Birx said. “So, I know that someone — or someone out there or someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president. I know what I sent up and I know that what was in his hands was different from that. You can’t do that. You have to use the entire database.”
Who, exactly, was doing that — or why — remains a mystery to her.
“To this day I don’t know,” Dr. Birx said. “I know now by watching some of the tapes that certainly Scott Atlas (an advisor on the White House Coronavirus Task Force) brought in parallel data streams. I don’t know who else was part of it, but I think when the record goes back and people see what I was writing on a daily basis that was sent up to White House leadership, that they will see that I was highly specific on what I was seeing and what needed to be done.”
With a re-election campaign in full speed and businesses opening up sooner than she thought they should, it became clear to Dr. Birx that they weren’t going to follow her gated criteria to ease the spread of the virus. It became increasingly apparent that there were COVID deniers in the White House and, therefore, in the public at large.
“There were people who definitely believed that this was a hoax,” she said. “When you have a pandemic where you’re relying on every American to change their behavior, communication is absolutely key. And so every time a statement was made by a political leader that wasn’t consistent with public health needs, that derailed our response.”
She admitted that her efforts to get out accurate information were repeatedly undermined. “There was so much leaking and so many parallel stories being leaked to the press that did not have grounding in truth that I didn’t want to ever be part of that slippery slope,” she said. “I know people started it with good intentions of trying to inform the American people, but then it became a way that they could silence those who didn’t agree with them. And so I knew that every time I had a significant disagreement in the White House that within days a story would be planted.”
Looking back, Birx said she feels like she could have done more to share correct information and stop the release of disinformation from the White House, “been more outspoken, maybe been more outspoken publicly.”
“I didn’t know all the consequences of all of these issues,” she said. “When you’re put into a new situation and you only know one person in the White House, you know, and you don’t understand the culture of the White House, it’s very difficult to get your footing. I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying I didn’t know how far I could push the envelope.”
You can watch Birx’s entire interview with “Face the Nation” by clicking here.