Scott Gottlieb has seen his national profile grow amid the coronavirus epidemic as the former FDA commissioner becomes a lead voice from outside the administration on how to tackle the worst health epidemic that the country has never known.
Gottlieb, a 47-year-old doctor, has become a regular presence on cable TV shows and his Twitter account is widely followed by journalists, health policy experts and politicians.
He maintained a line with the White House throughout the pandemic, and although his early warnings fell on deaf ears, he did not criticize the administration with criticism, but offered sharp words to officials and States when he disagreed with their policies.
All of this helped him become a trusted figure in the midst of the crisis of people on both sides of the aisle.
He unofficially advised the White House Coronavirus task force, providing Trump with a recent “roadmap” that he and other experts have written to determine how the federal and state governments can begin to regain their lives. normal safely.
Gottlieb was an FDA commissioner under Trump for about two years before resigning in March 2019, citing the desire to spend more time with his family in Connecticut and to settle out of Trump amicably. He had been one of Trump’s most popular appointments and appeared to be widely appreciated in Congress by Democrats and Republicans.
Gottlieb, who has not returned an interview request for the story, has raised the alarm over the need for the federal government to prepare for a pandemic since late January. Those who know him say that he was able to make breakthroughs at the White House because of his expertise and his desire to be frank about the challenge.
“He is not going to obscure his opinions and say something that people want to hear or that could make the headlines. He’s just trying to be clear about the essential things that need to be done to respond to the pandemic, “said Mark McClellan, a former FDA commissioner who hired Gottlieb under the George W. Bush administration.
“It’s not about making a name for yourself or saying something controversial or critical just for the fun of it. It’s really with that kind of constructive goal in mind. I saw that the whole time we worked together. “
McClellan, who, along with Gottlieb and colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), wrote the “reopening roadmap” released a week ago, said it has generated considerable interest from lawmakers at Capitol Hill, Trump administration and state officials regarding their recommendations.
“It was really the goal. We all have to work together, ”said McClellan. “There is a complex set of issues that need to be addressed together to move forward.”
Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard Pence Religious groups fight to shut down services Watch live: Coronavirus task force holds press conference Decentralized leadership raises questions about Trump’s response to coronavirus PLUS, who heads the coronavirus task force, told CNBC last week that he had “great respect” for Gottlieb and noted that he advised the task force when asked for the warning from the former FDA chief on potential emerging hotspots for coronaviruses. in places like New Orleans, Miami and Chicago.
Trump told reporters on Monday that he had received a copy of Gottlieb’s “road map” and that the task force would consider recommendations for Americans to wear non-medical face masks to prevent the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus and to the use of GPS tracking to enforce home isolation. A few days later, conversely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraged Americans to cover their faces in public.
“He has been with me for a long time,” Trump told reporters on Monday when asked about the recommendations. “He did a great job at the FDA. “
Gottlieb, a doctor and cancer survivor, wrote an editorial on January 27 calling on the United States to prepare for a national epidemic of the new coronavirus and sounding the alarm about the need for widespread screening and testing. point of service.
“Global spread seems inevitable. The same is true for the emergence of epidemics in the United States, although a generalized American epidemic can still be avoided. When pockets of the epidemic hit our shores, we shouldn’t have excessive panic. But we have to be ready, ”wrote Gottlieb to CNBC. A few days later, Gottlieb warned that COVID-19 was likely to be a pandemic, about a month before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it.
He has since been heard on Twitter and in interviews, occasionally drawing the attention of Trump, who retweeted Gottlieb on March 12, warning of “two difficult months” ahead and advocating for physical distancing in the communities. Trump too sharing tweets from Gottlieb on Sunday saying cases appear to be slowing in some places due to social isolation, but pointing to areas of concern, including Miami and other parts of Florida, which, according to Gottlieb, are becoming a “major epicenter” of COVID-19.
In early March, Gottlieb attended a weekly meeting of Republicans at the invitation of the representative. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney New York self-quarantine lawmaker: “We should be totally locked out” on money: Trump hopes to reopen economy by Easter | GOP Senators Await Recovery Ball Wednesday | Democratic leaders plan at least two more Trump rescue bills spark congressional debate with comments on reopening PLUS economy (Wyo.), GOP leader in third place, according to Paul Kane of the Washington Post.
At the meeting, Kane wrote that Gottlieb had issued a brutal warning in the room which had been dismissed as “alarmist” by some who were present. These Republicans challenged his recommendations for social isolation and compared the virus to the seasonal flu, prompting a strong response from Gottlieb, who warned that they had a moral duty to save lives.
Last week, Gottlieb said in a CNBC appearance that the success of the White House’s social distancing measures to maintain the death toll would depend on the decisions of “populist” states like Texas and Florida that don’t had not yet taken sufficiently aggressive action.
“If they don’t get more aggressive, we could be at the brink of some of these bad results,” said Gottlieb. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantis Religious groups fight to shut down services Florida lawmakers call for resignation of state unemployment official Florida candidates allowed to collect signatures on online petitions has since made a home stay order, having previously resisted it.
Gottlieb is one of a handful of former Trump administration officials who have sounded the alarm over the coronavirus epidemic.
Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser who also served in government during the Bush era, warned for weeks about the potential impact of COVID-19, making recommendations and weighing on administration decisions on Twitter and media interviews.
Kevin Hassett, a former Trump chief economist, also said last month in an interview with CNN that the epidemic could trigger another great depression. Hassett has since returned to the White House late last month in an informal role to advise Trump amid the pandemic.
Nathaniel Weixel contributed.