Former US president Donald Trump has lashed out at a pair of his former top advisers after they went on TV to criticise his COVID response.
Former US president Donald Trump is locked in a public feud with the two top coronavirus advisers from his administration, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx.
Dr Fauci and Dr Birx were both interviewed as part of a CNN documentary called COVID WAR: The Pandmic Doctors Speak Out, which aired on Sunday night.
The pair were critical of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 560,000 Americans.
Most notably, Dr Birx said she believed hundreds of thousands of those lives could have been saved after the virus’s first wave.
“I look at it this way. The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” she said.
“All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
Dr Birx, who served as Mr Trump’s coronavirus task force co-ordinator in the White House, said the federal government’s failure to provide “consistent messaging” to Americans was “fault number one”.
She also said she endured a “very uncomfortable” and “difficult” phone call with the then-president in August. In her telling, Mr Trump was unhappy about “the clarity that I brought about the epidemic” during a TV interview.
Dr Fauci repeatedly contradicted Mr Trump’s claims about the virus last year, and took several potshots at the former president during a White House media briefing the day after Joe Biden took office.
Dr Birx has been less critical of Mr Trump in public, though you might recall her very obviously squirming through his suggestion that doctors try to combat the virus by injecting patients with disinfectant.
Anyway, the two doctors’ public remarks appear to have agitated Mr Trump, because last night he released a lengthy statement slamming both of them.
He said he “almost always” overruled the pair’s recommendations.
“Based on their interviews, I felt it was time to speak up about Dr Fauci and Dr Birx, two self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations, which I fortunately almost always overturned,” he said.
“They had bad policy decisions that would have left our country open to China and others, closed to reopening our economy, and years away from an approved vaccine – putting millions of lives at risk.”
Mr Trump said the US had developed “American vaccines by an American president in record time” under his leadership, saving “the entire world”.
“Dr Fauci and Dr Birx moved far too slowly, and if it were up to them we’d currently be locked in our basements as our country suffered through a financial depression. Families, and children in particular, would be suffering the mental strains of this disaster like never before.”
He went on to talk about the “fake interview” Dr Fauci gave to CNN. It was in fact a real interview, but as you may have noticed throughout these past few years, Mr Trump has a habit of throwing the word “fake” in front of anything he doesn’t like.
“Dr Fauci, who said he was an athlete in college but couldn’t throw a baseball even close to home plate, it was a ‘roller’, tried to take credit for the vaccine, when in fact he said it would take three to five years, and probably longer, to have it approved,” said the former president, referring to the opening pitch Dr Fauci threw at a Major League Baseball game last year.
“Dr Fauci was incapable of pressing the Food and Drug Administration to move it through faster. I was the one to get it done, and even the fake news media knows and reports this.
“Dr Fauci is also the king of ‘flip flops’ and moving the goalposts to make himself look as good as possible. He fought me so hard because he wanted to keep our country open to countries like China. I closed it against his strong recommendation.”
Mr Trump has often claimed every single one of his advisers, including Dr Fauci, told him not to impose the partial travel ban on people coming into the US from China at the end of January, 2020.
His account is disputed. In his book detailing the then-president’s response to COVID, Watergate journalist Bob Woodward reported that the ban was actually recommended by at least five advisers: Dr Fauci, health secretary Alex Azar, CDC director Robert Redfield, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, and Mr O’Brien’s deputy Matthew Pottinger.
“Dr Fauci also said we didn’t need to wear masks, then a few months later he said we needed to wear masks,” Mr Trump continued.
This is true. Dr Fauci, along with other Trump administration experts, did initially advise the public that masks were not necessary. Dr Fauci has since said he was concerned about the general public buying too many, causing a shortage of masks for medical workers. Make of that what you will.
At this point Mr Trump turned his attention to Dr Birx, calling her “a proven liar with very little credibility left”.
“Many of her recommendations were viewed as ‘pseudoscience’, and Dr Fauci would always talk negatively about her and, in fact, would ask not to be in the same room with her,” the former president said.
“The states who followed her lead, like California, had worse outcomes on COVID, and ruined the lives of countless children because they couldn’t go to school, ruined many businesses, and an untold number of Americans who were killed by the lockdowns themselves.
“Dr Birx was a terrible medical adviser, which is why I seldom followed her advice. Her motto should be, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ Who can forget when Dr Birx gave a huge mandate to the people of our nation to not travel, and then travelled a great distance to see her family for Thanksgiving – only to have them call the police and turn her in? She then, embarrassingly for her, resigned.”
The day after Thanksgiving, Dr Birx travelled to one of her holiday homes in Delaware, having advised Americans to avoid unnecessary travel.
Mr Trump’s claim that her own family called the cops and “turned her in” is not supported by any information on the public record.
The week after the news media reported on her trip, Dr Birx announced that she would retire instead of seeking to stay on in the Biden administration. Before that, she had reportedly been lobbying for such a role.
“Finally, Dr Birx says she can’t hear very well, but I can,” Mr Trump continued.
“There was no ‘very difficult phone call, other than Dr Birx’s policies that would have led us directly into a COVID caused depression.
“She was a very negative voice who didn’t have the right answers. Time has proven me correct. I only kept Dr Fauci and Dr Birx on because they worked for the US government for so long – they are like a bad habit!”