Trump Berates CBS News’ Weijia Jiang for Calling Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright Gifted

President Donald Trump insisted he didn’t know anything about whistleblowing vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright, but then berated CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang for asking about Bright’s “gifts” in his field of expertise.

On Wednesday, Dr. Bright released a blockbuster statement in which he said he’d been demoted from his position leading the agency tasked with vaccine development because he had pushed back against funding unproven coronavirus treatments that Trump has relentlessly promoted — and suggested that political connections and cronyism were behind Trump’s promotion of them.

Despite the implications of Bright’s accusations, it wasn’t until nearly an hour into the briefing that a reporter asked about it.

“Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about Rick Bright,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl said. “He’s the head of the federal agency in charge of getting a vaccine out to — to Americans once it’s ready. He says he has been pushed out of his job because he raised questions about hydroxychloroquine and some of your directives on that. Was he pushed out of that job?”

“I’ve never heard of him. You just mentioned the name. I never heard of him,” Trump claimed, then asked “When did this happen?”

“This happened today,” Karl said, to which Trump said “Well, I’ve never heard of him. If the guy says he was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. I — you’d have to hear the other side. I don’t know who he is.”

Karl tried to ask a follow-up, but Trump brushed him off to call on another reporter.

Despite the fact that Trump simultaneously claimed not to know the head of the agency tasked with finding a vaccine during a global pandemic and casually acknowledged the man may well have been pushed out of his job, only one other reporter asked about Dr. Bright for the remainder of the briefing.

“Mr. President, yes, I just had a follow — a question for Dr. Fauci, if you don’t mind,” Weijia Jiang said, adding “And I’m happy to ask you one after.”

She never got the chance to question Trump, but Jiang asked Dr. Fauci “So this concern or an accusation he’s raised that he was removed from his job because he protested widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, are you familiar with the situation? And do you feel like public health experts feel they are able to speak publicly or to speak out in opposition to the things?”

Fauci shook his head and said “Here I am,” indicating that he is an example of an expert speaking publicly. Dr. Fauci has urged caution about the drugs Trump has promoted, but has not spoken in opposition the way Dr. Bright did.

“So you don’t feel like there’s any concern among people at the NIH right now or in the public health community?” Jiang asked.

“At the NIH, absolutely not,” Fauci replied.

“Dr. Fauci, knowing Dr. Bright and knowing what his gifts are as one of the country’s leading experts on vaccines, are those gifts best suited at NIH rather than BARDA? What’s he going to be doing with you?” Jiang asked, and added “are his gifts best suited to work with you rather than BARDA?”

“I don’t really think I can comment on somebody’s relative gifts,” Fauci said, then described Dr. Bright’s new duties.

“I mean, he’s — he’s going to be at the NIH, and he’s going to be responsible, from what I hear — again, this is what I’ve heard — that he’s going to be responsible for the development of diagnostics, which is very, very important,” Fauci said.

As Fauci wrapped up his answer, Jiang began to ask “Are you concerned at all that he –”

But Trump stepped up to the podium and interrupted by saying “And why did you say that he has great gifts or gifts? What, do you know him?”

“Well, that’s his expertise. I mean, I’m just looking at his résumé,” Jiang said. Dr. Bright is an award-winning vaccine expert.

Trump  interrupted “No, no, but have you reviewed him? Have you — have you studied him? Have you reported on him? You said, ‘his gifts.’ His gifts. I mean…”

“He’s worked his entire career developing vaccines, including the –” Jiang said, as Trump interrupted again.

“Well, that doesn’t mean you have gifts. I know a lot of people, they play baseball, but they can’t hit 150 in the Major Leagues,” Trump said.

“Well, he helped develop the flu vaccine last year,” Jiang said.

“No, no, but you talk about his great gifts,” Trump said, then rolled on to the next reporter.

Neither Jiang nor Karl had the chance to ask Trump about the substance of Dr. Bright’s accusations, and not a single other reporter bothered to try.


Trump refused to back down from his claim that Hurricane Dorian could hit Alabama, even after the National Weather Service said it was false

US President Donald Trump has refused to back down from his claim that Hurricane Dorian was forecast to hit Alabama, even as the National Weather Service on Sunday rejected the president’s assertion.

In a tweet Monday, Trump focused his attack on the ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who had reported on the network’s “World News Tonight” show that Trump on Sunday had “misstated the storm’s possible trajectory.”

“I suggested yesterday at FEMA that, along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play, which WAS true,” the president tweeted Monday.

“They made a big deal about this when in fact, under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’ Always good to be prepared! But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!”

The NWS office in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday had unambiguously rejected the president’s assertion that Alabama was in the storm’s path.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted: “In addition to Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

The NWS tweeted a response just 20 minutes later: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

The veteran meteorologist James Spann also rejected the president’s claim, tweeting Sunday: “Alabama will not be impacted by Dorian in any way.”

The White House has not responded to a request from Business Insider on the source of the president’s claim.

Despite the NWS’ correction, Trump continued to claim on Sunday that Alabama could be hit, once in remarks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House and later in remarks at a meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In its latest update on the storm, the National Hurricane Center said early Tuesday that Dorian was stationary just north of the Bahamasbut that a sharp turn northward could cause it to directly hit the coast of Florida.

Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas have all declared states of emergency in response to the storm, with mandatory evacuations affecting more than 1 million people in coastal areas.

[Business Insider]