President Donald Trump continued ranting about Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday, escalating his feud with one of the nation’s top public health experts even as Fauci ignored the attacks and characterized them as a “distraction.” Trump was asked about the “back and forth” with Fauci during an appearance on ‘Fox and Friends’ Tuesday, and said Fauci was a “nice guy” and “fine,” but that he’s also a “Democrat” and that if Trump had listened to him the pandemic would have been worse.
“He's a nice guy but he's been wrong. First of all, he said don't wear masks… He said let the people from China come in. He admits I saved thousands of lives,” Trump said.
“He's a nice guy. He's got a really bad arm,” Trump said, referring to Fauci’s bad pitch during Opening Day earlier this year. As he was actively throwing one of the key officials in the pandemic response under the bus, Trump added that Fauci is “sometimes not a team player.”
During his rant about Fauci, Trump also referenced Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the Whtie House coronavirus task force who has championed so-called “herd immunity” and as recently as this weekend argued that masks don’t prevent the spread of coronavirus, in a Twitter thread that was removed because it included disinformation. Trump called Atlas “fantastic.”
Trump’s most recent broadside at the longtime director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases followed an interview Fauci gave to ‘60 Minutes’ that aired Sunday. In that interview, Fauci admitted he had initially been wrong about the utility of masks, but had changed his view once the data indicated that masks work.
Fauci also expressed his frustration with the Trump campaign using him in an ad, said that he wasn’t surprised that Trump contracted coronavirus, and indicated that the White House was restricting his 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,” Fauci said. Trump said during the Fox & Friends interview that Fauci needs White House approval to go on television, but that the ‘60 Minutes’ appearance proves that Trump isn’t muzzling him.
As critical of Fauci as the Fox & Friends interview was, it paled in comparison to Trump’s eruption earlier in the day, when he claimed on a campaign call that Fauci was a “disaster” whose preferred approach would have resulted in half a million people dead. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said. “Every time he goes on TV there’s always a bomb.”
Fauci’s approval rating has remained consistently positive throughout the pandemic, while Trump’s has not, a Morning Consult poll last week found.
But while Trump has spent much of the past two days attacking his most popular and most visible public health adviser, Fauci hasn’t taken the bait. Asked about Trump’s comments during an interview with a Los Angeles radio station Monday, Fauci dismissed the remarks as a “distraction.”
“[Tackling the virus] is the only thing I really care about,” Fauci said. “That other stuff, it’s like in ‘The Godfather’: nothing personal, strictly business as far as I’m concerned. I just want to do my job and take care of the people of this country.”