Trump Renews Criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci
President Trump again took aim at his administration’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony Fauci, after the doctor said a Trump campaign ad had featured his comments out of context and without his permission.
“Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications. ‘No problem, no masks,’” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, linking to a CNN article on Dr. Fauci’s criticism of the campaign ad. Dr. Fauci in July bungled the first pitch before a Nationals-Yankees game, later blaming a sore arm.
The president’s tweet appeared to be a reference to skepticism Dr. Fauci expressed about masks in March, a position he later reversed. Mr. Trump didn’t wear a mask in public until this summer and has often mocked their usage.
The president’s latest criticism of Dr. Fauci, whom he has regularly attacked for months, came a day after the doctor called for the Trump campaign to take down the ad featuring his comments. “To take a completely out-of-context statement… I thought it was really very disappointing,” Dr. Fauci said on CNN on Monday. He said it would be “outrageous” if the campaign uses his comments in future ads.
A representative for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Dr. Fauci leads, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the president’s tweet and didn’t make Dr. Fauci available for comment.
The Trump campaign released the ad last week following the president’s release from the hospital, where he spent three days being treated for Covid-19. It shows several clips of Mr. Trump wearing a mask as the narrator says:“President Trump tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.” That is followed immediately by aneditedclip of Dr. Fauci saying: “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”
While the ad gives the impression that Dr. Fauci is talking about the president, his comments—made in a March 22 interview with Fox News—are actually referring to officials on the administration’s task force.
“I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night, and when I say night, I’m talking 12, one, two in the morning,” Dr. Fauci said in the interview. “I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that. It’s every single day. So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more.”
In a statement to CNN on Monday, Dr. Fauci said he had never endorsed a political candidate in five decades of public service. “The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public-health officials,” he said.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh defended the ad, saying: “Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump administration.”
The president on Monday tweeted: “They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words. We have done a ‘phenomenal’ job, according to certain governors. Many people agree…”
Following the president’s diagnosis with Covid-19 earlier this month—and the infection of more than a dozen of his aides and advisers—Republicans have increasingly invoked Dr. Fauci as an authority on the pandemic. In a debate Monday evening between candidates for the Kentucky Senate seat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly mentioned Dr. Fauci, who he said “has made it clear that coronavirus is not going away.”
Dr. Fauci’s approval ratings on handling the pandemic have regularly outpaced those for Mr. Trump, who has often criticized the infectious-disease specialist as an alarmist.
Those tensions have mounted in recent months. Dr. Fauci, who in the early months of the pandemic regularly took part in coronavirus briefings at the White House, hasn’t attended one in months.
In April, Mr. Trump retweeted a call to fire Dr. Fauci, and in July the White House sent reporters a list of alleged mistakes he had made in the coronavirus response. In August Mr. Trump took on a new coronavirus adviser, Scott Atlas, whose views on the pandemic—including his support for ending lockdowns—aligned more closely with the president’s.
In a CNBC interview on Monday, Dr. Fauci said he intended to continue serving in his role. “I’m not gonna walk away from this outbreak, no matter who’s the president,” he said.