Dr. Deborah Birx has pushed backed on reports that she is “distressed” with the direction of the White House coronavirus task force she joined in February and is considering leaving.
“Do I look like a person that is diminished?” the task force coordinator said when asked Thursday about a CNN report that claimed the health official was unhappy about her shrinking role on the panel.
“I’ll tell you, that is the first time those adjectives have ever been used in describing my behavior,” Birx went on during a livestreamed news conference at Auburn University in Alabama, per an Associated Press report.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic that is affecting Americans. As an American, I think I can do the best service to my country right now by serving in this role, working across the agencies because that is the experience that I have,” she said.
A CNN report published Wednesday claimed the 64-year-old physician had confided in friends about the “nightmarish” situation inside the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic and was considering leaving.
Birx is reportedly concerned by the recent controversial addition of Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and Stanford professor, as a coronavirus adviser to the president.
Birx, who is also the US government’s HIV/AIDS ambassador, believes Atlas is feeding misinformation to President Trump, including on the efficacy of masks, the report said.
Both the White House and Atlas denied there was bad blood between the pair.
A protégé of fellow coronavirus task force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, Birx was a fixture at the president’s side during his nightly briefings at the peak of the crisis.
But in recent months, the physician has been zig-zagging across the country to understand outbreaks in different states.
Trump lashed Birx as “pathetic” in an August tweet after she faulted the US COVID-19 response.
On Thursday, said she had been to 28 states, including more than 15 universities, in the last three months, and played down reports of a potential ousting.
“Yes, I have been on the road. Why is that?” she asked.
“That’s because that dialogue allows you to understand what policies are working, what needs to be changed, what is difficult for people,” she said.
Some experts on the task force, particularly Fauci, have attracted Trump’s ire for countering his public statements on the pandemic and criticizing the government’s response to the virus.