President Trump on Monday lashed out at Dr. Deborah Birx after the White House coronavirus response coordinator warned that the coronavirus is now “extraordinarily widespread” in the United States—an assessment that while backed by science, contradicts Trump’s ongoing efforts to falsely portray the crisis in more optimistic terms.
It marked the first time the president has publicly criticized Birx, who until now, had echoed the White House’s talking points on the pandemic, even when doing so drew heavy condemnation, as well as doubt over her independence as a public health official. Trump’s newfound frustration with Birx came after she told CNN Sunday that the US had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic, one different than the situation in March and April, while also suggesting that distance learning—not the in-person reopening of schools Trump has aggressively pushed for—may be more appropriate for communities struggling to contain the spread of the virus.
On Monday, without offering any evidence, Trump framed Birx’s remarks as a response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s blunt comments announcing that she didn’t have confidence in Birx. “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee,” Pelosi told ABC on Sunday, “so I don’t have confidence there, no.”
“It is deeply irresponsible of Speaker Pelosi to repeatedly try to undermine & create public distrust in Dr. Birx,” Alyssa Farah, the White House’s director of strategic communications, tweeted. “It’s also just wrong. Period. Hard stop.”
That call to end criticism of Birx apparently did not reach Trump, who by accusing Birx of taking “the bait” and hitting the administration,” had unwittingly taken the baton from Pelosi. “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. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020