Former White House COVID-19 special adviser Dr. Scott Atlas said he was "shocked" that President Trump never fired Dr. Anthony Fauci or Dr. Deborah Birx in spite of his many disagreements with them, saying politics may have played into it.
Atlas, who opposed lockdowns and school closings before, during, and after his four-month stint advising Trump on his coronavirus response, was pressed by Fox News host Steve Hilton on his "California Rebel Base" podcast about why Trump kept Fauci and Birx on staff, and Atlas said he had no answer.
"The question 'why weren't these people fired?' will go down in the history books as an unanswered question," Atlas told Hilton's podcast "California Rebel Base." "I can tell you my impression was, first of all, I was shocked that it wasn't done, because President Trump is not afraid of firing people. I mean this is obvious, and he's certainly not afraid of I don't think anything really, he showed that. He did understand the common-sense logic of the targeted protection policy, and he understood the destruction of the lockdowns.
"But it was allowed to continue, and my belief is that it was, from what I heard inside, which was it was an election year. The political side of his advisors were saying 'don't rock the boat' … It's a political year, we're close to an election.' Fauci and Birx had high public approval, possibly in part due to the fact that they disagreed with the president, but this was part of a strange logic to keep them on."
Atlas said he didn't care about the politics but rather saving lives in his tenure. He said he and Trump were in sync on opposing stringent lockdowns, with Atlas saying the Trump administration didn't adequately do targeted testing, such as increased testing of nursing home staffers, in part of because of Birx and Fauci's influence.
Fauci, who is now President Biden's top medical adviser, is the government's leading infectious disease expert but has come under fire for goalpost-shifting and hyper-caution throughout the pandemic. Birx served on the White House coronavirus task force before leaving office when the Trump administration ended in January.
Atlas recently released his memoir, "A Plague Upon Our House," which he told Fox News "clarifies the facts underlying the pandemic, free from the filter of government bureaucrats, the media, and politically-biased academics and scientists," while also exposing "profound issues in our society" that he warned "could interfere with our ability to address future crises and threaten the very principles of freedom and order that we often take for granted and that the rest of the world depends on."
Emails showed Birx and Fauci expressing concern about Atlas while he held his position, with the two agreeing his views were dangerous. He also came under fire from retiring National Institutes of Health Director Frances Collins for espousing herd immunity in 2020.
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.