Donald Trump complained to his campaign staff about the government’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, including him among people he considers “idiots,” but said he couldn’t fire him because of public perception.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said Monday in a call intended to boost morale at a campaign running well behind his challenger, Joe Biden. Trump’s campaign invited reporters to listen in.
“Anytime he goes on television” there’s a “bomb,” Trump told his staff, adding that if he fired Fauci it would be a “bigger bomb.”
He claimed without substantiation that “if we listened to him” there would be 700,000 to 800,000 American deaths. More than 220,000 Americans have died so far from the coronavirus pandemic.
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After disparaging Fauci, Trump remarked that he didn’t care whether reporters were on the call.
Trump has previously said he accepted Fauci’s recommendations while fighting the pandemic. But Fauci is a strong proponent of public use of face masks, a precaution the president hasn’t followed himself and has discouraged among his staff.
Trump’s Monday comments came after Fauci appeared on the CBS program “60 Minutes” and said he wasn’t surprised the president contracted Covid-19. “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,” Fauci said.
Fauci, who has been a regular presence on TV, said his media interviews had been limited by the White House. He said he wasn’t allowed to go on “many, many, many shows that have asked for me.”
Trump tweeted on Monday that Fauci “seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions.” Trump also said Fauci “threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!” — a reference to Fauci throwing the ceremonial first pitch of the 2020 Major League Baseball season.
The president’s campaign has aired television ads that take remarks by Fauci out of context to suggest he’s complimented Trump’s response to the pandemic. Fauci has publicly objected, saying he’s always been publicly non-partisan, and he’s urged Trump’s campaign to pull the ad.
Trump’s closest medical adviser is now Scott Atlas — a neuroradiologist with no epidemiology expertise affiliated with the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University — who came to the president’s attention with frequent appearances on Fox News.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Atlas has repeatedly sparred with Fauci and Deborah Birx, an epidemiologist who is the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.