The battle between President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci heated up Monday, with the president ripping into the government’s top infectious disease expert, calling him a disaster.
It started Sunday night on the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” when Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was “absolutely” no surprise that Trump got sick with the coronavirus, given his lax attitude toward social distancing guidance.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation: crowded, no separation between people and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said in the CBS interview. He was referring to an event at the White House in September to announce the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court.
“When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, nothing good can come out of that — that’s got to be a problem,’” Fauci said. “Sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”
Numerous people who attended the event later tested positive for the coronavirus, including the president.
Fauci, who has often been at odds with the president, sharpened his stance against an ad run by Trump’s reelection campaign that appeared to show the doctor praising the president’s handling of the coronavirus. Fauci said his words were taken out of context, and that their use in the ad was inappropriate because he never endorses candidates.
“I got really ticked off,” he said.
Trump attacked Fauci on Monday in a conference call with campaign aides, calling the doctor a “disaster” and saying, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”
He later told reporters that Fauci, who is 79, has been “around for 350 years.”
Fauci pushed back against complaints that he had flip-flopped over the use of masks, saying that admitting a mistake after examining further data shows honesty.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chair of the Senate health committee, defended the doctor. “Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants,” he said in a statement. “He has served six presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat.”
The National Academy of Medicine honored Fauci on Monday with the academy’s first Presidential Citation for Exemplary Leadership, citing his “distinguished service as a trusted adviser to six U.S. presidents during public health crises” and “steady leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In his acceptance speech, Fauci said that to inspire public trust and confidence in vaccines, people needed to hear consistent messages from the government, not conflicting ones.
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