Trump and Kellyanne Conway banned Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx from TV appearances on Covid, January 6 transcript shows

US President Donald Trump speaks on vaccine development in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, DC, joined by White House coronavirus task force Deborah Birx and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci (AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump and one of his top White House aides personally intervened to prevent his administration’s two top public health experts from making television appearances, his former White House communications director said.

In a sworn deposition before the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, former White House communications chief Alyssa Farah Griffin told investigators she frequently received “signals” from Trump’s reelection campaign asking the White House to abstain. from keeping “the doctors” — meaning longtime National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx — off television as a way to “talk less about the coronavirus” despite the ongoing pandemic.

“At times, the campaign signaled to talk less about the coronavirus. That was…a battle I was dealing with: “Don’t put doctors on TV, don’t talk about…just don’t talk about coronavirus in general.” It’s not driving us home a message,” said Ms. Griffin, who served as White House communications director from April to December 2020.

Ms. Griffin said she tried to “circumvent” those leads by booking Dr. Birx on local television interview sequences from a remote studio on the White House grounds. She said she would arrange interviews with outlets where the virus was increasing “because no one would notice.”

But one of Trump’s top advisers, then-presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, took notice and, along with Trump aide Hope Hicks, confronted Ms. Griffin about a dressing while Trump watched.

“She and Hope cornered me in the Oval in front of the President and said, ‘Alyssa keeps getting the doctors on TV. You are reducing our numbers. She’s scaring people about COVID,’” she recalled during the Jan. 6 panel questioning.

Ms Griffin said Ms Conway told Mr Trump she needed to “tell her not to have doctors.”

“And so the president told me point-blank he didn’t have them on TV anymore,” she said.

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Fauci enjoyed near-universal approval among Americans after serving as a top public health expert and adviser to presidents since the Reagan administration, but after appearing to clash with Trump and having gained a cult following among liberals, he has become increasingly reviled among Trump supporters to the point of requesting a protective Secret Service detail.

In April 2020, CNN reported that then-Vice President Mike Pence’s office was responsible for preventing Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx from appearing on that network until CNN executives agreed to air briefings on the Trump’s coronavirus without interruption, but the Trump White House has often denied that any effort was made to keep one or the other expert out of televised interviews.

As the 2020 election approached, Dr. Fauci’s status as an object of hatred for Trump supporters led the then president to frequently criticize him from the chopping block at his signature political rallies, much to the delight of attendees who would chant to the dismissal of the veteran doctor .

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