In an interview with ABC News on Monday, Dr. Deborah Birx spoke out about the now-infamous briefing where President Donald Trump suggested injecting COVID-19 patients with disinfectant.
"Frankly, I didn't know how to handle that episode," Birx told ABC News. "I still think about it every day."
Birx, then the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response team, was in the briefing room with Trump on April 23 as the president answered questions from the media. He discussed potential COVID-19 treatments including an “ultraviolet or just very powerful light” that could potentially be brought “inside” the body.
"You can see how extraordinarily uncomfortable I was," Dr. Deborah Birx says about the moment last year when she sat silently while former Pres. Trump raised the possibility of injecting disinfectant into people to treat COVID-19. https://t.co/Ta7pOW03jI pic.twitter.com/XQfPJ5NZs6— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) March 15, 2021
Then, he turned his attention to disinfectants.
“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that?” Trump asked. “Like injection inside or almost a cleaning because, you see, it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number in the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”
Birx’s reaction to the comments quickly went viral on social media. Astonished, yet seemingly trying not to show emotion, Birx mostly tried to avoid Trump’s eye line.
"You can see how extraordinarily uncomfortable I was," Birx told ABC News while noting that at the time Trump had been speaking to a different official in the room. "Those of you who have served in the military know that there are discussions you have in private with your commanding officers and there's discussions you had in public."
Trump’s comments were widely mocked, and shortly afterward the White House ceased holding regular COVID-19 updates with the president. Birx herself was also criticized for not making a stronger denouncement of Trump’s comments.
Throughout the pandemic, Birx says she and other top health officials struggled to correct misstatements from other Trump administration officials.
"I can't tell you how many discussions we had on, how do we get the message out realizing what's happening at the most senior levels of the White House," Birx said.
While Birx expressed a willingness to work with the Biden administration, she left the White House in December. She told ABC News on Monday that she’s been impressed with the Biden administration’s response to the virus.
"Whether it's the CDC director or Dr. Fauci or President Biden or Vice President Harris, all of them and all of their spokespeople are communicating exactly the same pieces, and I think that is critically important," she said.
She also echoed comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's top medical adviser, who said Sunday that Trump should urge his supporters — many of who remain skepitical of the COVID-19 — to get the shot.
"I hope President Trump lends his voice to that. I think it is important. But to every Trump supporter out there: Protect yourself, protect your family. Get vaccinated," she said.