Dr. Birx describes 'extraordinarily uncomfortable' moment when Trump suggested injecting disinfectant could fight COVID

Dr. Birx describes 'extraordinarily uncomfortable' moment when Trump suggested injecting disinfectant could fight COVID

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Deborah Birx, who coordinated the White House’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during former President Donald Trump’s administration, revealed on Monday she felt “extraordinarily uncomfortable” when the previous president suggested that people might fight the virus by injecting themselves with disinfectant.

“I can’t tell you how many discussions we had on, how do we get the message out realizing what’s happening at the most senior levels of the White House,” Birx told ABC News, reflecting on her reaction to some of the misinformation about COVID-19 that was spread by Trump. 

Birx faced criticism during her time as the coronavirus response coordinator for not speaking up when Trump flouted coronavirus restrictions or gave a platform to discredited medical advice.

Birx said she “didn’t know how to handle” the moment when, during a White House press briefing last April, Trump floated the idea that people might treat the virus “by injection inside or, almost a cleaning,” of disinfectants, which he later claimed was sarcasm.

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Because of her military background, Birx said, she was accustomed to following a chain of command, and Trump was not addressing her when he suggested that idea. 

“I guess some people thought I should run up on stage,” she said. “But I was just not trained in my years of training to react that way.”

Trump’s statement about disinfectant was one of many disputed pieces of medical advice he gave voice to during his presidency. He also shared videos of doctors falsely stating that hydroxychloroquine was a “cure” for the virus on his Twitter account, which has since been suspended for misinformation.

“You can see how extraordinarily uncomfortable I was,” Birx said. “I still think about it every day.”

Birx, a well-respected U.S. Army physician, has served in several administrations dating back to the Reagan administration. She was brought onboard to assist the Trump White House after a stint as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator under President Barack Obama. She served as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator before moving to the coronavirus task force in late February, 2020.

Birx said she and leading epidemiology expert Dr. Anthony Fauci had conversations routinely about how to “correct the record” after Trump or another high-level White House official would spread misinformation about the coronavirus.

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She tipped her hat to the current administration for what she said was a contrast to Trump’s in their consistent messaging on the virus.

“Whether it’s the CDC director or Dr. Fauci or President Biden or Vice President Harris, all of them and all of their spokespeople are communicating exactly the same pieces,” she said.

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Birx announced her plan to retire from the White House in December, and now works as an adviser for ActivePure Technologies.


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