“The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration ... as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,” Olivia Troye said

By Sean Neumann
September 18, 2020 10:45 AM
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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House during a coronavirus task force briefing on April 23.

A former White House staffer this week slammed the Trump administration's novel coronavirus response as a "failure" and said she would be voting for Joe Biden — arguing President Donald Trump has displayed a "flat out disregard for human life."

In response, the White House dismissed Olivia Troye as "disgruntled" and her assessment as "baseless."

Troye — who worked as an aide for Vice President Mike Pence and who was on the coronavirus task force — spoke to The Washington Post in an article published Thursday.

Her striking comments come as nearly 200,000 people have died in the U.S. from the respiratory illness. At least 6.6 million Americans have contracted the virus so far, according to a New York Times tracker.

Troye worked for the Trump administration for the last two years and left in August. She told the Post that the president's “main concern was the economy and his reelection."

She said his response has cost lives.

“The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration trying to do the work, as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,” she told the paper.

The White House quickly responded with pre-written statements about Troye's time working for the administration.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Troye was a "disgruntled former detailee" and "her assertions have no basis in reality and are flat out inaccurate."

Troye, 43, told a different story to the Post, saying she helped organize "every single meeting" that the coronavirus task force had, helped advise Vice President Pence, 61, on the coronavirus throughout the pandemic and had gone so far as to help his senior aides write a mid-June editorial in the Wall Street Journal that defended the administration's response to the virus.

“It was ludicrous,” she said of the op-ed, which hailed the Trump administration's pandemic response as a success.

Troye described herself to the Post as a "lifelong Republican," though she said she did not vote for Trump in 2016.

She is not Trump's only coronavirus critic: The president's handling of the pandemic has been scrutinized going back to the spring, including for problems with testing and for sending conflicting messages about the importance of wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

In the summer, he infamously mused aloud if injecting disinfectant could be a successful treatment.

Audio released by journalist Bob Woodward shows Trump , 74, admitting that he knowingly downplayed the virus' true threat — which he publicly said was similar to the flu — because he wanted to avoid "panic."

The president has also contradicted his own health experts on a number of matters, such as the timeline of a coronavirus vaccine.

coronavirus briefing
Vice President Mike Pence looks on as President Donald Trump speaks to the media on April 6 at the White House
| Credit: Vice President Mike Pence (left) and President Donald Trump during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing in April

Troye told the Post that Trump would rarely attend the task force's meetings and when he did, he would often get off subject — once complaining for 45 minutes about negative media coverage from Fox News.

“He spent more time about who was going to call Fox and yell at them to set them straight than he did on the virus,” Troye said, adding that he would upset other senior task force members when he would repeatedly "blindside" them with tweets and other public comments that were in opposition to what they had discussed in the meetings.

Health officials on the task force “repeatedly begged” the president to publicly embrace wearing masks, she said.

“The mask issue was a critical one," Troye told the Post. "If we would have gotten ahead on that and stressed the importance of it, we could have slowed the spread significantly. It was detrimental that it became a politicized issue. It still lingers today.”

Upon announcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation that people wear protective cloth face masks during the task force's April 3 press briefing, Trump immediately said: “It’s voluntary, so you don’t have to do it," adding, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

The president avoided wearing a mask in public for months afterward and continues to waffle on their use.

Troye told the paper that she worked for the administration after previously believing Trump could let go of his incendiary campaign rhetoric and embrace the role of a leader once in the Oval Office.

Troye, who says she'll vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November, said she still has respect for other senior officials within the administration, including the vice president.

The former Pence staffer said that she also has concerns Trump might turn a vaccine into a "prop tied to an election," given his zeal to have vaccinations before November.

While health officials have said vaccine development is very promising, CDC Director Robert Redfield told Congress on Wednesday that "we're probably looking at third, late second quarter, third quarter 2021" for a vaccine to be widely available to the public.