The infectious disease expert spoke frankly about the president’s pandemic response in a “60 Minutes” interview over the weekend.
President Donald Trump attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci and his administration’s other public health officials as “idiots” in a heated call with his campaign staff Monday, even musing about potentially firing the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
“People are tired of Covid. People are saying, ‘Whatever, just leave us alone.’ People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said on the call, which included press.
“He’s been here for, like, 500 years. He’s like this wonderful sage telling us how — Fauci, if we listened to him, we’d have 700,000 [or] 800,000 deaths.”
Trump described Fauci as a “disaster” and added that “every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb. But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.”
The president also presented himself as unconcerned by the prospect of his comments being circulated by the media, saying: “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it. I couldn’t care less.”
Trump took his feud with Fauci public later Monday in a pair of tweets that mentioned the immunologist’s media presence and mocked his bungled first pitch on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day in July.
“Dr.Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope,” Trump wrote. “All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said ‘no masks & let China in’. Also, Bad arm!”
Trump went on to insist that Fauci “should stop wearing” his signature face mask featuring the logo for the Washington Nationals baseball team “for two reasons.”
“Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing,” Trump wrote. “Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!”
After arriving in Arizona ahead of a campaign rally there Monday afternoon, Trump told reporters that Fauci “is a very nice man,” but that he sometimes “says things that are a little bit off, and they get built up, unfortunately.”
“He’s a nice guy. I like him, but he’s called a lot of bad calls,” Trump said, adding: “I don’t want to hurt him. He’s been there for about 350 years.”
The president’s anger Monday seemed at least partly provoked by a series of frank remarks Fauci made about Trump and the federal government’s pandemic response in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.
Fauci said Trump is reluctant to cover his face in public because he “equates wearing a mask with weakness,” and argued that the president’s frequent refusal to model the personal mitigation measure is “less an anti-science [position] than it’s more a statement.”
“You know, a statement of strength,” Fauci said. “Like, ‘We’re strong. We don’t need a mask.’ That kind of thing.”
Asked whether it made sense to him to view mask-wearing through such a lens of strength or weakness, Fauci responded: “No, it doesn’t. Of course not.”
Fauci also asserted that there has been a “restriction” on the flow of public health information from the administration, and said the White House had blocked him from making several media appearances.
“You know, I think you’d have to be honest and say yes. I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me,” he said.
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