During a campaign call on Monday, President Trump slammed infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, calling him a “disaster” and claiming that “people are tired of COVID,” according to multiple reporters who listened to the call.
Why it matters: Fauci, who considers himself apolitical, is one of the most trusted voices in the country on the coronavirus. Trump’s escalating attacks on the government’s top infectious-disease expert come as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are again surging across the country, just two weeks out from Election Day.
Driving the news: CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview Sunday night with the NIAID director, where he said he was “absolutely not” surprised Trump contracted COVID-19 after seeing him on TV in a crowded place with “almost nobody wearing a mask.”
What he’s saying: “Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy’s a disaster,” Trump said on a campaign call.
- “People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies,” Trump said. “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots … Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years.”
- “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” before later saying it would be 700,000 or 800,000. “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less,” Trump added.
The president later tweeted: “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. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said “no masks & let China in”. Also, Bad arm!”
- In a second tweet, Trump appeared to mock Fauci for a ceremonial first pitch he threw out for the Washington Nationals earlier this year.
The big picture: The White House has repeatedly blocked Fauci from making television appearances or doing interviews, which the top health expert pointed out during his “60 minutes” appearance. “There has been a restriction… but, it isn’t consistent,” Fauci said.
- Fauci has also clashed with the president over a political ad put out by the Trump campaign, saying a clip of him appearing to praise Trump’s coronavirus response was used out of context and without his permission.
- Fauci has insisted there’s “not a chance” that he would resign even if the Trump campaign continued to feature him in ads, but argued: “By doing this against my will, they are in effect harassing me.”