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Dr. Deborah Birx "always" considered quitting Trump's COVID task force

Emily Tillett
·3 min read
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Dr. Deborah Birx, the former coordinator of the Trump White House's Coronavirus Task Force, says nothing in her four decades of public service prepared her for the chaotic Trump White House or the politically charged handling of the pandemic, telling "Face the Nation" she "always" considered quitting her post.

In an interview to air on Sunday's "Face the Nation," Birx told moderator Margaret Brennan that even close colleagues who she had worked with during decades of research into the AIDS virus questioned her political allegiance amid a flurry of criticism against the Trump White House's response to the virus. 

"I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day? Colleagues of mine that I had known for decades... decades in that one experience, because I was in the White House, decided that I had become this political person, even though they had known me forever. I had to ask myself every morning, is there something that I think I can do that would be helpful in responding to this pandemic and it's something I asked myself every night," she told Brennan. 

Birx, who had been appointed by former President Obama as PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) Administrator, joined the Trump administration in March 2020 to help coordinate the COVID-19 response.

She added, "when it became a point where I wasn't getting anywhere and that was like right before the election, I wrote a very detailed communication plan of what needed to happen the day after the election and how that needed to be executed. And there was a lot of promise that that would happen."

Birx explained to Brennan that it was clear at that point how the 2020 election was a factor in the task force's reduced communication about the deadly virus. She said she was "censored" by the White House, blocked for a time from doing national media, but insisted she never intentionally withheld information from the public herself. 

More than 400,000 Americans have since died from the virus, and millions have lost their jobs as a result of the economic fallout.

In her interview, the career health official addressed the criticism she received toward the end of her White House tenure and subsequent strain on her family for spending time at a family vacation home after the Thanksgiving holiday, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance urging Americans not to travel or mix with those outside their own household at the time. 

She told Brennan she plans to retire "within the next four to six weeks" from her current role at the CDC, capping a four-decade-long career in public service as an Army officer, administrator of PEPFAR AIDS research, and finally a tumultuous run as one of the top U.S. officials guiding the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

Questions surrounding Birx's role in the current administration were also raised Friday, as CBS News' Steven Portnoy asked the White House press secretary if Birx was still on President Biden's COVID-19 response team. 

Psaski tells @stevenportnoy it's "an excellent question" if Dr. Deborah Birx is still on President Biden's COVID response team and she will "have to circle back on that one" https://t.co/skUlRypwqS pic.twitter.com/rA0yoqvSNb

— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 22, 2021

"I'll have to circle back on that one," said Press Secretary Jen Psaki. "That's an excellent question."

More of Birx's interview will air this Sunday on "Face the Nation" on CBS at 10:30 a.m. EST.

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