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Ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday hit back at new criticism of the COVID-19 pandemic from former White House coronavirus task force members Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, calling their accounts “revisionist” and “disingenuous.”
“What we heard last night on CNN was rhetoric we never heard in the West Wing from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx,” Meadows told Steve Bannon, once former President Donald Trump’s strategist, on his “War Room” podcast.
The infectious disease experts faulted Trump’s handling of the crisis in interviews for a special broadcast on the pandemic.
Fauci criticized Trump for tweeting in April 2020 that states should be “liberated” from draconian COVID-19 lockdowns — saying “that hit me like a punch to the chest.” Birx said that after the first 100,000 US deaths from the virus, “all of the rest … could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” States have reported about 550,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Birx also said she and Trump had a “very uncomfortable” call after she warned about the pandemic’s severity on TV.
“I can tell you about the ‘uncomfortable’ phone call. It had nothing to do with any of that,” Meadows said. “It had to do with the fact that Deborah Birx started talking about keeping schools closed and remote learning. And that was what it was all about because that was not based on science.”
Meadows said Trump “never went against” the advice of medical advisers and that state governments reopened from initial shutdowns pursuant to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was developed in cooperation with the White House task force.
“They were never held back from going public. In fact, most of the time, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci both would agree publicly — and they have stated so publicly — that the president did everything that they asked him to do,” Meadows said.
“But what is also alarming is to have this revisionist type of program last night to suggest that there was something different that should have been done when they were actually in the room helping make the decisions. In fact, if anything, for those kind of comments to come out last night, it was not only alarming but just very disingenuous to suggest that the president was pushing back.”
Trump allies previously faulted Birx and Fauci for attending White House COVID-19 briefings without wearing protective face masks — and for not encouraging the public to wear them — through March and April, despite their early adoption in East Asia.
Trump frequently touts his instinct to take bold early action during the pandemic, including banning travel from China in January 2020 and from Europe in March 2020. He said in a recent statement that his leadership led to successful and rapid production of COVID-19 vaccines through Operation Warp Speed and that “if I wasn’t President, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful ‘shot’ for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all.”
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