Official White House Photo by Joyce N. BoghosianBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump for the first time publicly criticized White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Monday after she broke from his line of positive messaging and delivered dire warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, in a tweet, appeared to suggest that Birx's response to criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "hit" the administration.
"In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!" Trump tweeted.
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. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020
Trump's tweet comes on the heels of Pelosi telling ABC News' "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz Sunday she does not have confidence in the task force doctor.
"I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee," Pelosi said. "So I don't have confidence there, no."
Pelosi doubled down on her criticism of Birx again on Monday, taking her to task for not challenging Trump about the outbreak and the administration's lack of a national coronavirus plan.
"I don't have confidence and anyone who stands there while the president says, 'Swallow Lysol and it's going to cure your virus.' ... I don't have confidence in somebody when the president says it's a hoax, it's magic," Pelosi said on CNN. "She has enabled [him]."
"This administration has not had a strategic plan for the six months we've known about the virus," the California Democrat continued. "There has to be some responsibility, so if the president is saying these things, who is advising him that this is OK and enabling that to happen?"
JUST IN: “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no,” Speaker Pelosi tells @MarthaRaddatz when asked is she has confidence in Dr. Deborah Birx. https://t.co/HNQgCe39RN pic.twitter.com/ZDZYAjr0cJ— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 2, 2020
Birx responded to the "no confidence" comment on CNN on Sunday by complimenting Pelosi before defending her own credibility.
"I have tremendous respect for the speaker. And I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people," Birx said.
Raising a recent article from the New York Times, which portrayed Birx as someone who at times tailored her analysis of the pandemic to better suit the politics of the administration, Birx insisted her response is driven by data, not politics.
"I have never been called pollyannish, or nonscientific, or non-data driven," she told CNN Sunday. "And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives."
Birx also warned that the pandemic has entered "a new phase," contradicting the president's persistently optimistic predictions as he pushes schools to reopen for full in-person instruction and resists any reversals on reopenings.
"I want to be very clear: What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," Birx told CNN. "To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus."
When asked about a prediction there could be 300,000 deaths by the end of the year, Birx said, "Anything is possible." She went on to emphasize social distancing and suggest that some Americans in multi-generational families should start wearing masks inside their homes and assume they already have the virus.
Though the president has attacked several groups for their assessment of the coronavirus crisis -- including governors, journalists and heath experts, like the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci -- this is the first time he's has fired off directly at Birx, who just last month he called "a tremendous woman."
On Sunday, White House and campaign aides were quick to defend Birx after Pelosi's comment of no confidence.
It is deeply irresponsible of Speaker Pelosi to repeatedly try to undermine & create public distrust in Dr Birx, the top public health professional on the coronavirus task force. It’s also just wrong. Period. Hard stop.— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) August 2, 2020
Birx, a retired Army colonel, was appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve as the State Department's global AIDS Ambassador in 2014. She was tapped by Vice President Mike Pence to serve as the coordinator of the coronavirus task force in late February and was soon set up with an office in the White House West Wing.
The president had previously appeared to favor the diplomatic, even optimistic way, Birx sounds when deducing scientific dogma on the coronavirus crisis, as opposed to Fauci's blunt assessments.
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