Dr. Deborah Birx revealed she had a resignation pact with other doctors on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response team, and said Trump’s outlandish public comments during the early days of the pandemic made her wish she was in the “Twilight Zone.”
Birx, in a sweeping interview with ABC News Monday about her work on the front lines of the pandemic, told the story behind Trump’s infamous April 2020 news conference in which he mused about using injected disinfectant as a treatment for COVID-19. Birx, caught frozen on camera as Trump spoke, said she was “paralyzed” when the then-president brought that up.
She said minutes later during Trump’s news conference that disinfectants were “not a treatment,” but was later lambasted for failing to call out Trump and others in his White House for spreading disproven and at times dangerous ideas.
Vehemently rebutting Trump’s claim would have been the “logical and important thing to do,” Birx acknowledged to ABC News. But “I was paralyzed in that moment because it was so unexpected.”
“I just wanted it to be ‘The Twilight Zone’ and it all go away,” Birx continued. “I could just see everything unraveling in that moment.”
Birx spoke ahead of the release of her book, “Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late.”
As The New York Times noted, Birx was sidelined shortly after that news conference. She explained that she wasn’t fired, which would have triggered a pact with other doctors, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, to all resign if any of them were forced out.
“I was very worried about Bob and Steve … because you can hear in the hallways how people were talking about them,” she said. “I think all of us knew what it was like to be there and in the trenches. Although they got to go home after the task force and back to their agencies. I was still in the White House.”
Birx said she spoke to then-Vice President Mike Pence about Trump espousing incorrect information.
“I am saying exactly, exactly the opposite of what the president is saying, because the data is telling me we are going to have a very deadly fall and I have to make sure the American people are ready,” she said she told Pence. “He looked at me and said, ‘You need to do what you need to do.’”