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Former President Donald Trump took jabs at Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, two members of his COVID-19 task force, after they spoke candidly about his administration’s response to the pandemic in a CNN special on Sunday.
“Based on their interviews, I felt it was time to speak up about Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, two self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations, which I fortunately almost always overturned,” Trump said in a statement Monday. “They had bad policy decisions that would have left our country open to China and others, closed to reopening our economy, and years away from an approved vaccine—putting millions of lives at risk.”
Trump’s statement comes as Fauci remains a key part of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response team and as more than 95 million Americans have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Over 52.6 million have been fully vaccinated.
Cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have also been on the decline since January but Fauci has repeatedly warned that they’re plateauing at relatively high numbers and that precautions such as masks and social distancing should still be maintained.
Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, has been speaking more candidly about his time working with the Trump administration since Biden took office.
In January, Fauci described working for Biden as “a somewhat liberating feeling.”
During Sunday’s interview, Fauci said he was shocked when Trump called for states to reopen in mid-April last year when violent protesters stormed state capitol buildings and claimed masks were an infringement on their rights.
“The thing that hit me like a punch to the chest was then all of a sudden he got up and said ‘Liberate Virginia, Liberate Michigan,'” Fauci said of the former president. “And I said to myself, ‘Oh my goodness. What is going on here?'”
Trump called Fauci the “king of ‘flip-flops,'” because of the changing guidance he issued during the pandemic as experts learned more about the virus and how it spreads.
In his statement, Trump called Birx “a proven liar with very little credibility left,” and claimed Fauci would talk badly about her.
In the interview with CNN, Fauci praised Birx for attention to data at the beginning of the pandemic and said the two, alongside other doctors on the task force, had their own little group.
“The States who followed her lead, like California, had worse outcomes on Covid, and ruined the lives of countless children because they couldn’t go to school, ruined many businesses, and an untold number of Americans who were killed by the lockdowns themselves,” Trump added. “Dr. Birx was a terrible medical advisor, which is why I seldom followed her advice.”
Birx told CNN the deaths of thousands of Americans who died from COVID-19 were preventable.
“I look at it this way: The first time we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx said. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
On Trump’s last full day in office, the US surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths.
So far, the country has had over 30 million recorded cases of COVID-19 with more than 549,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.