- President Donald Trump blasted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious-disease expert, as a “disaster” in a campaign phone call on Monday, CNN reported.
- “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” Trump reportedly said, adding: “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone.”
- As part of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Fauci has been one of the most visible faces for Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
- In a September ABC News/Ipsos poll, only 35% of Americans said they approved of how Trump had handled the coronavirus pandemic, with 67% of respondents saying he acted too slowly to combat the disease.
- Later on Monday, Trump once again lashed out at Fauci, mocking his “bad arm” and saying he “threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!”
President Donald Trump on Monday blasted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, as a “disaster” in a campaign phone call, CNN reported.
Trump, who has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus as it has spread throughout the US, dismissed Fauci’s health recommendations and claimed that more people would have died had he listened to the longtime health official.
Trump described Fauci as a “nice guy” who has “been here for 500 years,” then said, “Fauci is a disaster,” according to CNN, which said it got access to the call via a source.
“If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” Trump reportedly said, adding: “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
Trump revised the figure to 700,000 or 800,000 deaths before expressing indifference about whether his statements would reach reporters, CNN said.
“If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less,” he said, according to CNN.
Fauci has been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and was recently part of the White House’s coronavirus task force.
Trump’s criticisms of Fauci had been relatively muted until recently. While Trump has struggled for months with unfavorable opinions about his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Fauci has remained one of the most trusted sources for health information.
In a September ABC News/Ipsos poll, only 35% of Americans said they approved of how Trump had handled the coronavirus pandemic, with 67% of respondents saying he acted too slowly to combat the disease.
In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in June, 50% of respondents said they viewed Fauci favorably, while only 11% said they had a negative view. And in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in September, 68% of respondents said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust in Fauci when it came to the updates about the coronavirus.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, Fauci said he was “absolutely not” surprised that Trump caught the coronavirus.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” he said, referring to the White House ceremony for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, on September 26.
“When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that. That’s got to be a problem,'” Fauci continued. “And then, sure enough, it turned out to be a super spreader event.”
Trump announced on October 2 that he and first lady Melania Trump had contracted the coronavirus. He was transported later that day to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment, and he was released on October 5.
The president has routinely dismissed the threat of COVID-19, urging state leaders to reopen businesses and claiming that the US is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic and that the virus will “disappear.”
But Fauci offered a different perspective, telling CBS: “When you have a million deaths and over 30 million infections globally, you cannot say that we’re on the road to essentially getting out of this. So quite frankly I don’t know where we are. It’s impossible to say.”
In the interview, Fauci also said that his media appearances hadn’t always been in his control.
“During this pandemic, has the White House been controlling when you can speak with the media?” Dr. Jon LaPook asked.
“You know, I think you’d have to be honest and say yes,” Fauci replied. “I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.”
Trump took another swing at Fauci on Monday afternoon, this time on Twitter.
“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 said. “All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions.” The president also accused Fauci of saying “no masks & let China in.”
Trump went on to mock Fauci’s ceremonial first pitch of the first 2020 MLB game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees in July.
“Also, Bad arm!” Trump wrote, adding that Fauci “threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!”
Before a rally in Prescott, Arizona, on Monday afternoon, Trump pushed back on the notion that he was criticizing Fauci because of Fauci’s favorability among Americans.
“We let him do what he wants to do. He gets a lot of television. He loves being on television,” Trump said, adding, “But he’s called a lot of bad calls.”