White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx largely defended President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that injecting disinfectants could treat coronavirus, saying on Sunday that it “bothers” her that this is still in the news cycle as the president was just “musing” on the subject.
During an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Birx was confronted about the president using an “emerging result” from the Department of Homeland Security that showed sunlight, heat and disinfectants could weaken the spread of the virus to question whether ingesting bleach could be a potential cure.
“What should the American people know about disinfectants and the human body?” CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked.
“Well, first, that was a dialogue he was having between the DHS scientists and himself for information that he had received and he was discussing,” she responded. “We have made it clear and when he turned to me I made it clear and he understood that it was not as a treatment. And I think that kind of dialogue will happen.”
Trump, however, attempted to claim on Friday that he was posing the question about disinfectants “sarcastically” to reporters in the Thursday briefing “just to see what would happen.”
Birx went on to lament that “what got lost” is that the Department of Homeland Security study that the president touted showed that sunlight can impact the aerosolization of the virus, prompting Tapper to point out that Trump was not “musing” about the factual findings of the study.
“He was talking about ways to take that science and somehow turn it into injecting UV light or disinfectants into the human body which as you know, especially with disinfectants, can be lethal,” the anchor added, noting the CDC and disinfectant manufacturers have had to issue statements.
“As a doctor, doesn’t that bother you, that you have to even spend any time discussing this?” Tapper pressed Birx.
“Well, I think it bothers me that this is still in the news cycle, because I think we’re missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing as an American people, to continue to protect one another,” she replied.
Grousing that spending time on Trump’s remarks prevents her and other scientists from getting more important information out to the American public, she asserted that the president wasn’t peddling dangerous misinformation.
“I think the president made it clear that physicians had to study this,” Birx stated. “I think I’ve made it clear that this was a musing, as you described.”
In a Saturday night Fox News appearance, Birx told host Jesse Watters that she didn’t believe Trump had placed anyone in danger, claiming the president “likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue.”
In another interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Birx continued to promote the DHS study while insisting that she had already made it “very clear” that she has clarified that ingesting bleach is “not a treatment” for coronavirus.
Asked by anchor Chuck Todd whether she was worried that Trump’s comments and touting of unproven cures were undermining the credibility of task force scientists, Birx largely avoided the question.
“I think all of us are very clear and very clear in our discussions with the American people how we’re looking and utilizing data to drive decision making within the task force,” she said, adding: “We need to constantly be focusing on what we’re learning to save more lives and to make our treatment more effective.”
Bix essentially giving Trump a pass while touting the DHS study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, prompted NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell to blast the doctor for helping to propagate misinformation.
“I think the credibility of the scientists really now is on the line,” Mitchell said on Meet the Press.
"When Dr. Birx said to you today that sunlight does kill the virus, she is perpetuating an unscientific, untested, single study presented by a nonscientist from the Department of Homeland Security, which led to the president, as she put it, not fully digesting the data,” she added. “She needed to be very clear on disavowing it, and to this point, she still has not been even this morning.”