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OPINION

Thousands are dying from COVID-19. Deborah Birx wants to save her reputation

Once a White House coronavirus task force member, she’s trying to ignore her defense of the former president. Don’t let her.

Instead of rehabilitating her legacy, Dr. Deborah Birx should come correct on why she defended an administration whose decisions, or lack thereof, deepened the COVID-19 crisis.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Like others who torched their careers in defense of The Worst President in American History™, Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, is pretending that she was a bulwark against — and not an enabler for — the ruthlessness of an incompetent leader. If not for her presence, she said during a recent appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the lethal federal response to the pandemic could have been worse.

Birx claimed she wrote more than 300 daily reports for White House senior officials but has no idea whether Donald Trump reviewed them. Unless the information was on a golf scorecard, it’s a safe bet he didn’t read any of them.

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Yet that’s not what Birx said last April on Fox News.

“Every piece of data that we get to him, he looks at, he talks through, he asks questions — and he asks questions that show that he understands the data,” she said. “Public health charts are very much like economic charts,” and Trump, she claimed, had “a strong foundation in data in general.”

Now Birx says, “I had very little exposure to President Trump.” Is there a vaccine against hypocrisy and revisionism?

Meet the new gaslighting, same as the old gaslighting — and it’s not just Birx.

After Trump incited white supremacists to storm the Capitol, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said Trump “bears responsibility for [the] attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Suddenly, McCarthy now believes “everybody across the country” carries “some responsibility” for the Capitol insurrection that threatened democracy and killed five people.

Like Birx, McCarthy has found a convenient lie, and he’s sticking with it.

Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador still harboring her own ambitions for higher office, even said of her former boss, “I mean, at some point, give the man a break.” I guess she believes that fallout from the deadly insurrection has been hardest on the person who spent months inciting it.

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Of course, Haley doesn’t seek unity at all. She wants to declare that truth is subversive and accountability is divisive. Only hypocrisy and mendacity will set us free.

And by us, they mean themselves.

The truth is that the GOP was preaching lies long before Trump arrived, and that when his ugly presidency further unraveled the nation, they did nothing to stop it.

Now that Trump’s facing a second impeachment trial, Republicans will not choose democracy over the craven political calculation of protecting a man who remains enormously popular with GOP voters. Only 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump; Senate Democrats won’t get half as many to cross the aisle. Despite the fact that Trump endangered their lives, most of the GOP won’t do the right thing.

Neither did Birx.

By comparison, she may seem chastened on her mea culpa tour, but her goal is exactly the same: to wash herself clean and downplay her role in facilitating a president whose stench will permeate this nation for generations. That makes Birx no different from those who next month will again acquit Trump. She should not be allowed the distance she seeks from her own actions.

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Instead of rehabilitating her legacy, she should come correct on why she defended an administration whose decisions, or lack thereof, deepened the COVID-19 crisis. She should be forthright about what happened behind the scenes and reveal what we don’t yet know about why this pandemic was allowed to tear across the nation. Short of that, she doesn’t deserve airtime to promote a self-serving narrative that will always be at odds with history.

Nationwide, more than 500,000 people will die from COVID-19. Just imagine how different things might be if Birx had been as intent last year on protecting American lives as she is these days with saving her once distinguished, now sullied reputation.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.