Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
President Donald Trump retweeted a follower calling on him to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday night, a sign of Trump’s growing frustration with Fauci and other medical experts who’ve offered even mild criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
DeAnna Lorraine, a QAnon supporter and San Francisco Republican candidate who finished fifth out of six in the primary in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district last month, tweeted that it was “time to #FireFauci,” after Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top adviser to Trump on the crisis, questioned the president’s early decision-making in a CNN interview.
“Obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
“But what goes into those kinds of decisions is -- is complicated. But you're right,” he added. “I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”
As mild and as indirect as Fauci’s criticism was, it wasn’t lost on Trump, who retweeted Lorraine less than an hour after her tweet and again falsely claimed he was alone in advocating a travel ban to China. “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up,” Trump said.
READ: The U.S. now has more coronavirus deaths than any other country
While Trump and Fauci have battled over the president’s heavy promotion of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus despite the lack of wide-scale clinical trials, the president has largely avoided directly criticizing Fauci and other public health experts. (The same can’t be said for some of Trump’s longtime advisers, including trade adviser Peter Navarro, who reportedly accused Fauci of not supporting Trump’s travel restrictions on China.)
But even as social distancing measures begin to slow the growth of new coronavirus cases, Trump has shown an urgency to get back to normal — by May 1, according to a Washington Post report from last week — as the economy remains in free fall. More than 16 million people have filed new claims for unemployment insurance in the last three weeks.
In his CNN appearance, Fauci hinted it could be June or July before it's safe for most of the country to return to normal, while FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a separate interview with ABC that it’s “just too early to tell” if May 1 was a realistic date for that to happen.
In a press briefing Friday after a meeting of the coronavirus task force, Trump said a new “opening our country” task force would be announced this week and it would include business leaders, doctors, and governors. Asked if he would listen to public health experts if they told him May 1 was too early, Trump was noncommittal.
“I will certainly listen, I will certainly listen. There are two sides,” Trump said. “Remember I understand the other side of the argument very well because I look at both sides of an argument. I will listen to them very carefully though.”
Listen and subscribe: Via Apple Podcasts | Via Spotify | Via Stitcher or anywhere else you get your podcasts.
Cover: President Donald Trump listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, April 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)