Dr. Deborah Birx says when she was coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force under now-former President Donald Trump, she had to grapple with COVID-19 deniers in the White House, and claimed that someone gave the president "parallel" streams of data that conflicted with hers.
Birx did not hold back when asked by "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan if there were COVID-19 deniers in the White House: "There were people who definitely believed that this was a hoax."
When asked why, Dr. Birx replied, "I think because the information was confusing at the beginning."
"I think because we didn't talk about the spectrum of disease, because everyone interpreted on what they knew," she added, "and so they saw people get COVID and be fine."
Dr. Birx did not identify the COVID-19 deniers and said she did not know who was presenting the parallel data to Trump, but said she realizes now that Trump coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas was providing some of it.
Defending her tenure, Dr. Birx said that she was at times censored by the Trump administration but denied ever withholding information. "It is also why I went out on the road, because I wasn't censored on the road," she said, referencing her trips to multiple states to meet with officials to discuss their pandemic response.
Dr. Birx said that Trump "appreciated the gravity" of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, but noted that he was receiving information that wasn't coming from her.
"It took a while after I arrived in the White House to remove all of the ancillary data that was coming in," she said. "There was parallel data streams coming into the White House that were not transparently utilized."
Dr. Birx said she would see Trump "presenting graphs that I never made" and that "someone out there or someone inside was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president."
"I don't know to this day who, but I know what I sent up and I know that what was in his hands was different from that," Dr. Birx added.
When Brennan asked if Trump was "distracted" by the presidential campaign, Dr. Birx replied that "the worst possible time you can have a pandemic is in a presidential election year."
"There's politics and there's policies and there's pandemics. But in an election year, everything takes on a different perspective," She said. "I think the White House personnel were very focused on this pandemic in March and April. I think once the country began to open and it was clear to me that they weren't going to follow my really gated criteria [the data-driven conditions for states and regions to reopen] that I had worked hard on."
Birx said in December that she would retire but was willing to first help President Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed. More than 25 million people have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 418,000 people have died in the U.S. since the pandemic began.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.