Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) spent a portion of her time at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Tuesday four health experts about their relationship with President Donald Trump, which the media has described as filled with tension and mistrust.
Media reports regularly imply that Trump has a strained relationship with the health experts in his administration and on the coronavirus task force and that he has ignored science as he has led the response to a pandemic that started in China and spread across the globe.
“I have a final question for each or our great witnesses today,” Loeffler said. “Some of my colleagues in the Senate seem to want to paint each of your relationships with our president during this wartime effort as confrontational and lacking consensus.”
“Can you say here to the American people today whether this is true or untrue?” Loeffler asked.
“I would ask Dr. Fauci to answer that first,” Loeffler asked.
“There is certainly not a confrontational relationship between me and the president,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “As I have mentioned many times, I give advice and opinion based on evidence-based scientific information.
“He hears that,” Fauci said. “ He respects it.”
“In no way in my experience over the last several months has there been any confrontational relationship between us,” Fauci said.
“Again, I would echo what Dr. Fauci said,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said. “We’re there to give our best public health advice.”
“That’s what we do,” Redfield said. “It’s grounded in data and science.”
“I’ve always felt free to give the best public health advice that I think needs to be given at the time,” Redfield said. “It’s been done in a very professional way.”
“I have not had a confrontational relationship with the president,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said. “He asks questions.”
“I have given him my honest answers rooted in data and science,” Hahn said. “He has listened respectively to those … incorporating that into his decision making.”
Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said he also wanted to “echo” his colleagues remarks.
“We work very closely together, all the scientists, all the physicians, and, of course, Ambassador [Deborah] Birx,” Giroir said. “We have a productive working relationship with each other and with the president and the vice president.”
Giroir said none of the relationships were“confrontational.”
“We have the ability to honestly state our opinions and recommendations,” Giroir said.
The focus of the hearing was on re-opening America after a virtual nationwide shutdown because of the coronavirus. The plan for achieving that fell along party lines, with Republicans expressing the need to reopen the economy before more longterm damage is done, and Democrats expressing the need for continued restrictions.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter