When President Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for the coronavirus in October, crowds of his supporters gathered every day outside the facility to wish him well. Trump was aware of their presence from press reports. When he and his doctors began negotiating a check-out date for his release from the hospital, Trump decided to surprise his loyal supporters and do a drive-by for them. The Secret Service slowly drove him by the cheering crowd in The Beast, President Trump visible to them, waving and smiling.
Medical staff assured the public that all appropriate precautions were taken during the president’s drive-by. The criticism Trump received for the show of gratitude to his supporters was overblown. That’s what happens in Trump’s America – Trump does something, the press loses its mind, Trump’s action is found to be acceptable, the press moves on to its next overblown reaction, rinse and repeat. We’ve experienced four years of that.
Only one doctor from Walter Reed came forward and said what the critics were saying at the time – Trump put the lives of Secret Service agents at risk by selfishly joy-riding to wave at his fans. Dr. James Phillips, an Emergency Room physician, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University, and an attending physician at Walter Reed spoke against the president’s actions. On October 4 Phillips tweeted, “Every single person…in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential “drive-by” just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.” The tweet has since been deleted. He also posted a second tweet, “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack,” Phillips wrote on Twitter at the time. “The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding.”
Now, two months later, Dr. Phillips, a contract employee at GW Medical Faculty Associates, finds himself removed from the hospital’s schedule. His colleagues are surprised that a disaster medicine specialist would be eliminated from the schedule as Maryland is nearing a record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations. As I said, Dr. Phillips wasn’t the only person to criticize the motorcade trip around the hospital but he was the only physician there to speak out publicly. Besides the tweets, he also gave a television interview. He told the TODAY show that Trump’s actions were “irresponsible”.
“This is the wrong message to be sending,” Phillips said, adding: “This was a dangerous move. There is no medical benefit for this to have taken place.”
“Beyond the risk that was imparted on those Secret Service agents, volunteering or not, it’s the message that is sent to other people who are sick that it’s OK to go out,” he continued.
Phillips has been removed from the rotation but Walter Reed denies it was their decision. Dr. Phillips’s employment is through a contractor and that company determines his schedule.
They told the outlet that the hospital “provides requirements for contract positions. Schedules are determined by the contractor. There was no decision made by anyone at WRNMMC to remove Dr. Phillips from the schedule.”
Contracted employees like Dr. Phillips can simply not renew a contract when it comes time to do that, or the contractor can decide not to renew. There is no word if Phillips’s removal was done in retaliation for his criticism of the president. There is something else to consider, too. The other doctors who were asked said that they approved of President Trump’s car ride. They didn’t express concern about the exposure of the Secret Service agents in The Beast, the presidential vehicle, with him. They referred to the partition between the front seat and the rest of the vehicle. When Dr. Phillips went rogue with public criticism, he threw his fellow physicians under the bus. Maybe he’s a Never Trumper who wanted his 15 minutes of fame. It doesn’t matter. He knew better than to treat the other doctors as he did, yet he did it anyway.