While Disinfectant Comments Cause Trump To Retreat from View, They Cast Unwanted Spotlight on Dr Birx

While Disinfectant Comments Cause Trump To Retreat from View, They Cast Unwanted Spotlight on Dr Birx


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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While the fierce blowback from remarks he made last week about taking household disinfectants internally has caused Donald Trump to put an end to the daily briefings he led at the White House, it’s causing some new and unwanted scrutiny for one of the nation’s top officials leading the federal response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Trump caused a firestorm when he suggested last Thursday, in apparently off-the-cuff remarks, that people could inject or otherwise take internally bleach and other disinfectants to counteract COVID-19.

Health officials and disinfectant makers across the country immediately jumped into action and immediately began warning the American people that disinfectant products should never be taken internally and doing so can be deadly.

Trump has been suffering the political consequences ever since.

It’s even prompted Trump to cancel the daily televised sessions which he had been using to sound off in place of the mass rallies which are no longer possible due to social distancing.

 “The president and his advisors have made a decision to put a pause on those daily briefings. There may continue to be briefings every day, but they are not likely to feature the president as of now,” said Philip Rucker, White House bureau chief for The Washington Post. “That’s because the president has come to the realization he’s been convinced by internal polling data and by the advice of his many advisors inside and outside of the government his daily appearances, those two-hour-long spectacles where he spars with reporters and he presents false and misleading information, that has been politically damaging to him and is hurting him.”

However, while Trump may be taking a step back into the shadows, a spotlight has begun to show on White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr Deborah Birx, according to a former diplomat in the Obama administration.

“I was just saying, there are so many things that are happening there. This is not just a failing of President Trump. Those of us who have worked in the White House understand that what is said at that podium really matters and the governor of Maryland reported that hundreds of calls flooded their lines about whether or not these disinfectants could work on COVID. But there’s another utter defection of leadership there,” said Patrick Gaspard, former ambassador to South Africa and ex-White House director of political affairs. “While all of us are sheltering at home, Dr. Birx is sheltering in silence there in that moment.”

For her part, Dr Birx said she is displeased that the disinfectant comments are still in the news.

“Well, I think it bothers me that this is still in the news cycle, because I think we’re missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing as an American people, to continue to protect one another, and we should be having that dialogue about asymptomatics, we should be having that dialogue about this unique clotting that we’re seeing,” said Dr Birx, who prior to her current role was an at-large health envoy under both the Obama and Trump administrations. “We’re the first country that really had young people to this degree. Italy and Europe is about eight years older than us as a median age. This is our first experience of this virus in an open society where we really can understand what’s happening to every different age group.

“These are the things that we should be talking about and focusing on. So I think as a scientist and a public health official and a researcher, sometimes I worry that we don’t get the information to the American people that they need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night,” she added. “I think I’ve answered that question. I think the president made it clear that physicians had to study this. I think I’ve made it clear that this was a musing, as you described. But I want us to move on to be able to get information to the American people that can help them protect each other and also help them understand how devastating this virus is to different age groups and different symptoms and different comorbidities.”

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