White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC (Getty / AFP / Tasos Katopidis)

US military did not arrest Trump pandemic task force coordinator

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Online articles claim the US military arrested former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx for lying to the American public about the efficacy of face masks during the pandemic. This is false; the Department of Defense says it has no knowledge of Birx’s arrest, and that the military does not have the authority to detain her.

“U.S. Military Arrests Dr. Deborah Birx,” reads the headline of a May 29, 2021 article on the Restored Republic website.

The article claims that Birx was detained because she “conspired with the CDC to deceive the American public into believing that face masks were an effective method to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.”

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken on June 2, 2021

The content of the article was shared on YouTube and as a screenshot on Instagram

The article appeared three days before The Washington Post, followed by BuzzFeed News, reported on a trove of emails from Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist who was a member of the Coronavirus Task Force.

The claim about Birx's arrest, however, is false.

“We... are not aware of this,” Christopher Sherwood, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told AFP.

He added: “Of note, unless someone is in uniform, under Title 10, and subject to the UCMJ (Universal Code of Military Justice), services do not have the authority to arrest civilians” -- requirements that Birx does not fulfill.

The article claims that Birx and Fauci agreed, in an email chain obtained by Trump, that masks were completely ineffective at preventing Covid-19.

It alleges Birx wrote that “regardless of POTUS’s stance, we must continue to encourage and enforce masking because it will give people a sense of calm and make them feel safe.”

However, a word search shows no such exchange in the 3,234 pages of Fauci’s emails from January to June 2020 obtained by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and published by Buzzfeed News.

The website of former president Donald Trump, who criticized Fauci while he was in office, does not show any mention of this email. 

And no reliable news source reported that Birx was arrested.

The domain of Restored Republic, which reported the claim, was registered just over two weeks earlier by Vietnamese company Mat Bao Corporation, a domain name search shows

In a February 2020 email, Fauci did recommend against mask use by uninfected people. But his stance changed later on, and face coverings as well as mask mandates have since been shown to be effective in curbing the spread of the virus.