A ‘distressed’ Dr. Deborah Birx is questioning how long she can remain on the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, according to reporting from CNN.
Aides and friends describe Birx as seeing her role as diminished and the situation inside the taskforce as a nightmare.
She considers Dr. Scott Atlas – a later addition to the taskforce – as a bad influence on President Donald Trump, who has returned to the campaign trail and held mass gatherings, while mocking his opponent Joe Biden for wearing a mask.
Dr. Deborah Birx is telling aides and friends that she doesn’t know how much longer she can remain on the coronavirus taskforce, according to reporting from CNN
Dr. Deborah Birx (right), who has seldomly been seen at President Donald Trump’s (left) side in recent weeks, sees her role as diminished. She’s photographed in the Oval here on August 5
Sources told CNN that Dr. Deborah Birx (center right), photographed at an August 27 coronavirus taskforce meeting, has described the situation as nightmarish
Part of the problem, in Dr. Deborah Birx’s eyes, is the includsion of Dr. Scott Atlas (pictured) on the taskforce. CNN reported that she’s worried he’s fed the president inaccurate information on mask-wearing
President Donald Trump, photographed at the White House Wednesday, has resumed holding large rallies and has made fun of his political opponent Joe Biden for wearing a mask practically everywhere he travels
‘The president has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe,’ a source close to Birx told CNN. ‘There is no doubt that she feels that her role is diminished.’
While Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, another key member of the coronavirus taskforce, have encouraged Americans to wear masks to prevent further spread of the virus, Birx fears that Atlas has fed Trump misleading information about the efficacy of mask-wearing.
In turn, Trump and top administration officials – like his daughter Ivanka Trump – have largely stopped wearing masks publicly, inspiring Trump supporters to do the same.
CNN reported that an administration official close to the West Wing’s coronavirus response confirmed the addition of Atlas has unsettled some of the experts, but spun it as if it were a good thing, saying that Atlas ‘shook things up a bit’ and brought ‘fresh eyes’ to the handling of the pandemic.
‘He’s not been instructed to make friends,’ the official told the network.
The Washington Post reported last month that Atlas had been pushing for the U.S. government to embrace a ‘herd immunity’ strategy, which Trump referred to as ‘herd mentality’ during his town hall last week with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
That strategy would allow businesses and schools to reopen – as Trump has pushed – while letting the virus run its course.
‘A lot of people do agree with me,’ Trump told Stephanopoulos. ‘You look at Scott Atlas. You look at some of the other doctors that are highly – from Stanford. Look at some of the other doctors. They think maybe we could have done that from the beginning.’
Earlier this month, Birx personally denied that the White House was pursuing such a strategy.
‘Neither I, nor anybody in the administration, is willing to sacrifice American lives for herd immunity,’ she said on September 2 during a trip to Michigan.
Birx has rarely been seen at the president’s side in recent weeks, as he’s continued to hold ‘coronavirus’-themed briefings, but often without cameos from health experts.
The most recent photo of Birx in the Oval Office with Trump was taken on August 5.
She was photographed with Vice President Mike Pence in a taskforce meeting on August 27. She’s missing from meeting photographs taken on September 2 – when she was in Michigan – and on September 15.
She traveled with Pence to Arizona on Friday, but his office specifically told reporters on the ground that Birx was ‘not participating in today’s events.’
Previously, she has been on a road show to be the face on the ground of the administration’s coronavirus pandemic response, taking trips to Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Virginia, among other states.
The White House denied that Birx’s role has been diminished.
‘All of the medical experts in the administration are working together around the clock to carry out the president No. 1 priority: protecting the health and safety of the American people and defeating this virus from China,’ White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN. ‘President Trump relies on the advice and counsel of all of his top health officials every day and any suggestion that their role is being diminished is just false.’
Birx did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Another source told the network that she likely wouldn’t quit.
‘She is a good soldier,’ the source said. ‘I don’t think she’s going anywhere.’