President Trump today publicly criticized Deborah Birx, the doctor who is coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response, suggesting she was hurting him after she bluntly acknowledged that the pandemic is widespread across the United States.
Trump targeted Birx over a weekend response to criticism from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who questioned Birx’s credibility in responding to the pandemic.
He called Birx’s response to Pelosi’s criticism “pathetic.”
“So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics,” Trump tweeted. “In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!”
The tweet marks the latest instance of Trump undercutting one of his administration’s top health officials in the middle of a pandemic, but it is the first time he has publicly criticized Birx.
The tweet was even more jarring given White House officials had just spent the weekend praising Birx and defending her in the wake of Pelosi’s sniping.
Politico reported last week that Pelosi criticized Birx during a closed-door meeting on stimulus negotiations with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Asked Sunday about that criticism during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Pelosi made clear that she lacked confidence in Birx.
“I think the president is spending — spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his — she is his appointee,” Pelosi said. “So I don’t have confidence there, no.”
Birx, a retired Army colonel, was appointed by President Obama to serve as the State Department’s global AIDS coordinator.
She was tapped by Vice President Pence to serve as the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force in late February and has been working out of the White House since.
“I have tremendous respect for the Speaker. And I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people,” Birx said Sunday on CNN when asked about Pelosi’s comments, defending her data-driven approach to the pandemic.
Birx also delivered a sober warning of the current threat posed by the coronavirus, saying the United States had entered a “new phase” in its battle against the virus and calling it “extraordinarily widespread.”
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread … it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban,” Birx said on CNN.
“To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” Birx continued. “And that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces.”
Trump has consistently spoken highly of Birx, and his aides have come to her defense in recent weeks as she has endured media scrutiny over her role in the pandemic response efforts at the White House, as well as criticism from Pelosi.
“It is deeply irresponsible of Speaker Pelosi to repeatedly try to undermine & create public distrust in Dr Birx, the top public health professional on the coronavirus task force. It’s also just wrong. Period. Hard stop,” White House communications director Alyssa Farah tweeted on Sunday….
Trump has been relentlessly criticized for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 150,000 people in the U.S. and infected at least 4.6 million Americans.
Trump has claimed repeatedly that the U.S. would not have as many cases if it did not conduct so many tests, something his own administration officials have acknowledged is inaccurate.
At the same time, he has urged governors to loosen restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus more quickly in order to jump-start the economy.
Trump’s criticism of Birx comes as he has also publicly voiced disagreements with other health officials, most prominently Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted out a video of a portion of Fauci’s testimony explaining why the U.S. has recorded more cases than European cases and called it “wrong.”