Pelosi: Birx ‘enabling’ coronavirus disinformation from Trump
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday doubled down on questioning the credibility of Deborah Birx, the physician coordinating the White House’s coronavirus task force, arguing that she has been “enabling” President Trump to spread disinformation about the coronavirus.
“I don’t have confidence in anyone who stands there while the president says, swallow Lysol, it’s going to cure your virus. It’ll kill you and you won’t have the virus anymore,” Pelosi said during an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
“There has to be some responsibility. So if the president is saying these things, who’s advising him that this is OK and enabling that to happen while millions of people have died?” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s comments come as Birx also faced criticism earlier Monday from Trump, who attacked her for acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic is “extraordinarily widespread” across the U.S.
Trump suggested that Birx was trying to “counter” Pelosi’s previous criticism.
“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!”
Trump has repeatedly undercut top health officials, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, but until Monday he had refrained from publicly criticizing Birx.
Trump’s tweet also came after White House officials had defended Birx in recent days in response to the initial criticism from Pelosi.
Politico reported last week that Pelosi had criticized Birx during a meeting with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a coronavirus aid package.
Pelosi reiterated during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that she lacked confidence in Birx, saying “I think the president is spreading — spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his — she is his appointee.”
Pelosi said Monday that Birx came up during the meeting with Mnuchin and Meadows during a discussion about contact tracing.
“What happened is that we had a conversation about how we stop the virus. And when we did, they were making contentions about how tracing isn’t a valuable thing, we shouldn’t do it. I said, well that’s not what most scientists say. And they said, well we’ll bring a scientist to say that. I said, sure, [if] it’s not Dr. Birx,” Pelosi said in the CNN interview.
When asked during a Sunday interview on CNN to respond to Pelosi’s criticism, Birx said that she has “tremendous respect for the Speaker. And I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people.”
Birx also said that the U.S. had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic with the virus spreading in both rural and urban areas.
“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.
Birx was present at the White House briefing in April when Trump floated the idea of injecting people with disinfectants and exposing bodies to UV light to help treat the coronavirus.
During an interview on Fox News a few days later, Birx suggested that Trump was “digesting” information about disinfectants that he had received shortly before the press conference.
“When he gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue — and so that’s what dialogue he was having. I think he just saw the information at the time immediately before the press conference and he was still digesting that information,” Birx said at the time.