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White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx hit back at both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and The New York Times for doubting her capabilities, telling a CNN host Sunday that she’s never before in her life been called “non-scientific, or non-data driven.”
The remarks came in response to Pelosi telling the hosts of ABC’s “The Week” earlier that morning that she has “no” confidence in her.
“I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus, and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no,” she’d said.
“I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she’s his appointee. So I don’t have confidence there, no.” — Pelosi says she doesn’t have confidence in Dr. Birx pic.twitter.com/EyPV3MhyIN
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 2, 2020
Pelosi’s trash-talking was reportedly based on a Times hit piece that had accused Birx of being overly optimistic — i.e., “pollyannish” — about the virus.
Speaking with CNN host Dana Bash later that same morning, Birx hit back at both Pelosi and the Times, though she tried framing her response in a way designed to suggest the Times was the main culprit, not the speaker.
Great response from Dr. Birx about Pelosi’s baseless attacks. Pelosi could learn a thing or two from this.
“I have never been called… nonscientific or nondata driven & I will stake my 40-year career on… utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives.” pic.twitter.com/efluWAeA8E
— Abigail Marone (@abigailmarone) August 2, 2020
“I have tremendous respect for the speaker. I have respect for her long dedication to the American people, and I think it was unfortunate that The New York Times wrote this article without speaking to me. I could have brought forth the data. I provide data every single day with an analysis,” she began.
Note how she started by praising Pelosi and then jumped to slamming the Times.
“The day that they are talking about that I was ‘pollyannish,’ it said there was improvement in the New York metro, but ongoing cases in Boston and Chicago, a new outbreak in Houston and full logarithmic spread, and new, concerning outbreaks in Baltimore and New Haven and Washington, D.C.,” she continued.
“This was not a pollyannish view. I have never been called pollyannish or nonscientific or non-data driven, and I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives.”
Pelosi’s trash-talking on ABC came two days after a report emerged that she’d also trash-talked Birx during a closed-door meeting in her office Thursday evening with several Trump administration officials.
“Pelosi said to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: ‘Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in.’ She accused Birx of spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic while praising Anthony Fauci, who she said ‘came to his senses, and is now a hero,'” Politico reported Friday.
That trash-talking was reportedly also based on the Times’ hit piece.
Speaking of dubious narratives that aren’t rooted in truth, during the same interview on CNN this Sunday, Bash accused the United States of having “failed so badly” at handling the coronavirus. She based the claim on the number of coronavirus cases.
“The U.S. recorded nearly 2 million new cases in July, the most cases of any month yet. So the United States is still averaging more than 60,000 cases and 1,000 deaths per day. … America is not even close to controlling this like other places — South Korea and the European Union, for example. So, Dr. Birx, why has the U.S. failed so badly at this?”
To be clear, the number of cases is irrelevant, since more testing means more cases, and the U.S. excels at testing. Moreover, the United States isn’t close to being the top country with the most deaths per one million.
Watch the full discussion below:
Birx responded by pointing out that every major metropolitan area is like its own country and has therefore experienced its own coronavirus curve. But because of geographic and demographic differences, as well as asymptomatic spread, the start and end dates for their curves haven’t been the same. That’s why the idea that the U.S. as a whole has “failed so badly” makes little sense.
The point flew over Bash’s head.
“Doctor, you’re explaining what happened. The question that everybody out there has is why? Why did this happen? Why was the government particularly — I mean, you’re the coordinator for the federal response. Why weren’t you able to stop this from spreading and continuing to spread uncontrollably as it is now?” she said.
Birx attributed the continued spread to asymptomatic spreaders and cautioned this is why the administration has been promoting social distancing and mask-wearing.
“I hear, you but it’s clearly not working,” Bash replied.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas. And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus, and that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance,” Birx replied.
Her point again was that local peaks are occurring at different times because of geographic and demographic differences, as well as asymptomatic spread, which is why it’s fundamental that the American people follow the CDC’s guidelines.
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