Trump calls CDC director 'confused' after vaccine mask contradictions

CDC Director Robert Redfield testified on Capitol Hill, saying the earliest most people could get the vaccine would be "late-second quarter, third quarter 2021."
5:51 | 09/17/20

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Transcript for Trump calls CDC director 'confused' after vaccine mask contradictions
where president trump is at odds with the CDC calling the director of confused. ABC news obtained an internal memo showing 5900 deaths a jump of 16% from the week before. Cecilia Vega is tracking all the latest. Reporter: Good morning to you. This has been a pattern. The president publicly contradicting the scientists in his own administration but this time this example, this was really something. Here we are with nearly 200,000 Americans dead in this pandemic and now people in this country are forced to choose whether to believe the president or the top health experts. Right there from the white house podium in the middle of a pandemic, the president of the United States flatly contradicting his own CDC director over exactly when Americans will get a vaccine. The president insisting it could be as soon as next month. But the CDC director testified under oath on capitol hill the earliest most people would get it would be mid toat LE next year. It's just incorrect information and I called him and I think he got the message maybe confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly. No, we're ready to go immediately. He was clear -- I don't think he means that. I don't think -- when he said it, I believe he was confused. I'm just telling you. We're ready to go as soon as the vaccine happen. Dr. Robert Redfield didn't seem confused hours earlier. If you're asking me when will it be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of the vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter 2021. Reporter: But from president trump -- He just made a mistake. I think he misunderstood the question probably. I got the impression he didn't realize he said what he might have said. Reporter: And overnight it got even more chaotic. A CDC spokesman said Dr. Redfield did indeed misunderstand the question. 40 minutes later the spokesman retracted that statement and the contradictions did not end there. In his testimony, Redfield also called masks the most important public health tool we have. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against cote than when I take a covid vaccine. Reporter: But when the president was pressed on that. It's not more effective by any means than a vaccine and I believe that if you ask him, he would probably say that he didn't understand the question. Reporter: So we did ask and the CDC said in a statement masks are among the best defense we currently have against this virus. Joe Biden zeroing in. We can't allow politics to interfere with the vaccine in any way. So let me be clear, I trust vaccines. I trust the scientists but I don't trust Donald Trump. Reporter: Okay, here is where we stand. These are the facts. Multiple experts, top scientists including those working on this vaccine right now say it is extremely unlikely that a vaccine will be ready for widespread distribution in time for the election in November. In addition to the vaccine not being ready yet there are questions about whether it is ready to even be distributed on a large scale. Yesterday on the hill Dr. Redfield said that the scientific integrity of the CDC had not been compromised by politic, George. There are serious questions about whether that is actually the case this morning. Huge questions, Cecilia, thanks very much. Let's bring in Dr. Ashish jha. Welcome back, Dr. Jha. Thanks for joining us. The science first, masks. Yeah, Dr. Redfield is completely right about this. It is incredibly effective. There's no question. People should be wearing masks when they're outside their home. How about what is the expectation now on vaccines? We know these trials are all going on right now? We know some of the leaders think they may be able to announce some success by the end of the year but what about widespread distribution? Yeah, so I think that's exactly right. We're going to have them announced before the end of this year, I hope, that's what we're expecting and majority of Americans will get their vaccine late spring to summer. Might be a month or two earlier but not much. Then we get into the question of what are we all supposed to take away when we see the president questioning the CDC director, implication there there is pressure on the CDC what impact will that have on whether people think a vaccine is safe and effective when it is Yeah, so, George, this is frustrating because the science here has been done really well so far. People have been working very, very hard to build a vaccine and we can't let politicians politicize this. I look at this as if you have a eely serious medical diagnosis, do you want to listen to your doctor or listen to your politician? To me it's pretty clear you want to listen to the doctors and the public health experts and not let the politicians drive the time line. There's been such a pattern what does the CDC do in this situation? You know, it's incredibly hard. I watched the CDC's output what they're putting out, the reportment some is still excellent. Can you see the great scientists still at work and then you can often see how it then gets muddled by the political process and what gets released is often gibberish, often not at all consistent with science so it's a very difficult situation and we've got to let the CDC scientists speak and share their scientific expertise with us. Can Americans still trust what they're hearing from the CDC? You know, again, I think there's some great stuff coming out of the CDC but, again, we've seen more and more politicization of what comes out. It's a really difficult situation. We have to restore state in the CDC and its scientific process. Dr. Jha, thanks for your time this morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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