Recent reports signaled that Dr. Deborah Birx, a notable member of the White House coronavirus task force, had grown frustrated with a “diminished” role and planned to step down from the advisory panel.
But in a statement on Thursday, Birx dismissed claims that she’s planning on quitting as baseless and untrue, asserting that she can “do the best service” to her country by remaining in the role, as reported by the New York Post.
Based on Birx’s denial, earlier reports are widely seen as another attempt to stir up dissension within the Trump administration.
CNN’s Jim Acosta cited anonymous sources “familiar” with Birx’s thinking in making the claim on Wednesday. He said the task force coordinator had allegedly become “distressed” by the “nightmarish” situation created in large part due to the addition of Dr. Scott Atlas to the White House team.
The anonymous sources claimed that the environment had led to a “diminished” role for Birx compounded by Atlas’ “unhealthy influence” on the task force’s work.
In addition to those remarks, the report referenced Birx’s comparatively infrequent public appearances during media briefings after having initially been a very public face of the task force. Birx addressed the claims on Thursday during a video news conference at Auburn University in Alabama, as reported by the Associated Press.
“Do I look like a person that is diminished?” she asked. “I’ll tell you that is the first time those adjectives have ever been used in describing my behavior.”
“The experience that I have”
Birx went on to stress that the nation is “in the middle of a pandemic that is affecting Americans” and that she is still an active member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response effort.
“As an American, I think I can do the best service to my country right now by serving in this role, working across the agencies because that is the experience that I have,” Birx added.
Regarding the fact that she has not been present for national briefings, she said her role has involved extensive travel — including visiting 28 states and 15 colleges and universities over the past three months.
“Yes, I have been on the road,” she acknowledged. “Why is that? That’s because that dialogue allows you to understand what policies are working, what needs to be changed, what is difficult for people.”
For their part, both the White House and Atlas denied any bad blood between the two task force members. In the end, the whole narrative appears to be more of a distraction than any real warning about the task force and its mission.