Dr. Deborah Birx, an infectious disease expert who has been one of the White House’s top advisors on the coronavirus pandemic, rushed to the president’s defense in an appearance on Fox News Saturday night and again in an appearance on CNN Sunday morning, taking the media to task for pushing misinformation about President Donald Trump’s comments on using disinfectant to treat the novel coronavirus.
“I think the media is very slicey and dicey about how they put sentences together in order to create headlines. …We know for millennials in other studies that some people may only read the headlines. And if there’s not a graphic, they’re not going to look any further than that,” Birx said on Fox News Saturday night, accusing the media of getting in the way of — and even burying — useful information about the virus.
“And I think we have to be responsible about our headlines. I think often, the reporting maybe accurate in paragraph three, four, and five. But I’m not sure how many people actually get to paragraph three, four, and five,” she said.
She was even more adamant about the media’s role in spreading disinformation during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, blasting the media for taking joy in the president’s verbal pitfalls, even when they turn out to be innocuous.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Birx about comments the president made Thursday during his daily coronavirus briefing, allegedly suggesting — at least according to mainstream media sources — that Americans consider injecting or otherwise ingesting bleach or other chemical disinfectants to protect against the virus. The full comments show the president mulling over the idea in his head, asking Dr. Birx about the possibility of an internal disinfectant treatment, not openly suggesting Americans consume Clorox.
Headlines, however, blared that Trump had suggested drinking various household cleaners.
“I think it bothers me this is still in the news cycle,” Birx said, laying the blame for the viral comments squarely at the feet of the media. “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.”
Dr. Birx was the focus of the president’s remarks, when he asked, Thursday, “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting.”
Although initially reports suggested the president was alluding to a UV treatment he’d been briefed over previously, Trump later claimed he was being “sarcastic.”
Dr. Birx told Tapper the reason behind the comments is immaterial.
“I think as a scientist and public health official and researcher, sometimes I worry that we don’t get the information to the American people that we need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night,” she said. “I think the source of misinformation is not the news media on this.”
She added that the president was clearly “musing,” and that she corrected him immediately.
“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,” she added. “I think what got lost in there, which is very unfortunate in what happened next, is that study was critically important for the American people.”
Author: Emily Zanotti