Dr. Deborah Birx, who had been one of the White House’s chief coronavirus response coordinators, said Friday she considered quitting under former President Donald Trump, whose cavalier attitude toward combatting the disease created consternation among public health officials.
Birx, in a clip of released by CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” said she “always” considered quitting, particularly once colleagues began to view her differently after becoming one of the faces of the response to the coronavirus pandemic under Trump. The full interview will air on Sunday.
“I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day? Colleagues of mine that I’ve known for decades — decades — in that one experience, because I was in the White House, decided that I had become this political person, even though they’ve known me forever,” she said in the interview.
“I had to ask myself every morning: is there something that I think I can do that would be helpful in responding to this pandemic? And it’s something I asked myself every night,” Birx said.
Birx, who came under some criticism for traveling and hosting Thanksgiving with her family as Covid-19 cases skyrocketed, was in the White House briefing room in April 2020 when Trump suggested that injecting bleach, or other disinfectants — as well as light — could kill the virus. She was noticeably uncomfortable as the president turned to her and asked whether she had ever heard about heat killing the virus in humans.
Her comments comes a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the government’s other top public health experts, said he feels free to speak honestly about Covid-19 now that Trump is out of office. Fauci said that the new administration was committed to being “completely transparent, open and honest,” a sharp break from the Trump White House when Fauci said he often felt there would be repercussions for speaking honestly about the pandemic.
Birx, who said she never withheld information from the public, suggested in the interview that she felt stuck trying to effectively work with the Trump administration on combating Covid-19, prompting her to recraft public messaging.
“And, when it became a point where … I wasn’t getting anywhere, and that was right before the election, I wrote a very detailed communication plan — what needed to happen the day after the election, and how that needs to be executed,” she said “And, there was a lot of promises that would happen.”
This past December, Birx said in an interview with the news site Newsy that she plans to retire but did not give a timeframe for her exit. She said at the time she wants to first help President Joe Biden’s team “in any role” with its coronavirus response.