Speaker Nancy Pelosi has doubled down on her accusations against White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx' credibility, saying the virus expert is helping Donald Trump spread misinformation about Covid-19.
"I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee, so I don't have confidence there, no," Ms Pelosi said on Sunday in an interview with ABC News.
The speaker was responding to a question from ABC's Martha Raddatz about a Politico report that she had raised concerns about Ms Birx's credibility on the coronavirus pandemic in talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in,” Ms Pelosi reportedly told Mr Mnuchin and Mr Meadows.
Ms Pelosi contrasted Ms Birx's public statements about the pandemic to those of Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health who has earned the ire of Mr Trump for speaking more gravely about the virus that has killed more than 157,000 Americans than other top White House health advisers.
Mr “came to his senses, and is now a hero,” Ms Pelosi said, adding that the Topps baseball card company has sold more limited edition cards of Mr Fauci than anyone in history.
Ms Birx, who has worked as the US Global AIDS coordinator under both Barack Obama and Mr Trump, did not return Ms Pelosi's scorn.
“I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people,” Ms Birx said on Sunday in an interview with CNN.
Ms Birx also warned Americans to take the appropriate precautions surrounding Covid-19, as the US has entered "a new phase" of the pandemic where it is more widespread throughout the country.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. ... It's into the rural as equal [as] urban areas," she said.
"And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus, and that is why we keep saying no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance. Do the personal hygiene pieces,” Ms Birx said.
While both Ms Birx and Mr Fauci have worked on the coronavirus task force since February, Ms Birx has been more guarded in her public comments, largely declining to say anything that could be construed as critical of the Trump administration's response.
Mr Fauci has not been so circumspect.
While the president and congressional Republicans are urging schools to re-open for in-person classes this fall, Mr Fauci suggested last month that schools "should seriously look at shutting down," at least in person.
At a recent congressional hearing, Mr Fauci explained the drop in European cases as a result of countries shutting up to 95 per cent of their economies, while the US only shuttered 50 per cent of its business operations.
Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday that Mr Fauci was "wrong." Disparities in testing, he wrote, account for the difference in case load between the US and the EU.
"Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare ups. Most of our governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!" Mr Trump wrote.
While the US does have a more robust testing regime by now than other countries, hospitalisation and death rates are still higher than in the EU.
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