Tension is brewing between President Donald Trump and coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci after Trump released an ad that shows Fauci saying, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more” in a way that suggests Fauci is endorsing Trump.
Fauci said that his words were entirely taken out of context in the ad and that he did not give consent to be in a political ad, according to a statement he sent to CNN on Sunday, October 11. The statement read:
In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.
Fauci rose to become the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in part because of his carefully crafter nonpartisan image, which the ad may put at risk. Since joining the coronavirus task force, Fauci has been careful not to directly attack the president for his inconsistent approach to mask-wearing, promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment and other coronavirus-related statements.
Fauci Says He Has Not Endorsed a Political Candidate in the 2020 Presidential Election
The Trump ad, “Carefully,” has widened a chasm between Trump and Fauci, who made it clear to CNN that he had not agreed to be in the ad. On the CNN show State of the Union, Fauci told host Jake Tapper of the Trump campaign, “It was so deeply disappointing that they did that. It’s so clear that I’m not a political person.”
The quote that was used in the ad was taken from an interview that Fauci did with Fox News in March in which he praised the task force’s team effort. Fauci said:
Well, we’ve never had a threat like this and the coordinated response has been, there are a number of adjectives to describe it. Impressive, I think, is one of them. I mean, we’re talking about all hands on deck, is that I, as one of many people on a team, I’m not the only person, since the beginning that we even recognized what this was, I have been devoting almost full time on this, almost full-time.
I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night. When I say night, I’m talking 12, 1, 2 in the morning. I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that. It’s every single day. So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances, that anybody could be doing more. I mean, obviously we’re fighting a formidable enemy, this virus. This virus is a serious issue here.
During an interview on The News with Shepard Smith, Fauci said, “There are a lot of things going on that you would prefer would not happen, like the ad, which put me in a political context which I’ve spent my entire year staying out of … that’s not helpful.”
Trump has defended the ad, tweeting, “Actually, Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications.”
Trump’s campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, said, “These are Dr. Fauci’s own words. The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth,” according to CNN.
When Tapper asked what Fauci thought about the Trump campaign putting out another ad about him, Fauci said:
You know that would be terrible. I mean, that would be outrageous if they do that. In fact, that might actually come back to backfire on them. I hope they don’t do that because that would kind of be playing a game that we don’t want to play. So, I hope they reconsider that. If in fact they are considering doing that, I hope they reconsider and not do that.
Fauci told the Daily Beast that he would consider another unauthorized use of his words harassment. “By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me,” he said. “Since campaign ads are about getting votes, their harassment of me might have the opposite effect of turning some voters off.”
Fauci Says the Fall & Winter Could Produce More Dire Coronavirus Death Tolls
During his interview on The News with Shepard Smith, Fauci said that the country was in “in a bad place now.”
In most states, the number of coronavirus cases has been trending upward. As the Washington Post reported, infection rates in eight states set new seven-day average highs, and “in 40 states, cases are higher when compared with the week before.”
A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projected that the U.S. is on the path to reach 394,693 deaths by February 2021. Even with universal masks, the death toll is still projected to reach 315,000 by February, and with eased mandates, the death toll is projected to reach more than 500,000.
Fauci also had dire predictions for the upcoming fall and winter, telling Smith:
I think we’re facing a whole lot of trouble and the reason I say that … is we have a baseline of infections now that varies between 40 and 50,000 per day. That’s a bad place to be as you’re going to the cooler weather of the fall adn the colder weather of the winter. … As you go into a weather system when you’re going to be spending more time indoors than outdoors, which is a perfect setup for respiratory-borne diseases, that is unquestionably a problem. We’re in a bad place right now and we’ve got to turn it around.
Fauci also unequivocally said that he has not advocated shutting the entire country down, although he told Smith that he believed science-based restrictions did make sense in specific areas. He encouraged people to follow the proper guidelines around mask-wearing and hand-washing. “We’ve got to convince Americans that public health measures do not mean shutting the country down — we’re not talking about shutting anything down,” Fauci said. “We’re talking about using public health measures as a vehicle, a gateway to keeping the country open, to keeping the economy open.”
Fauci also noted that he is committed to helping combat the coronavirus, telling Smith, “I’m certainly not going to give up. This is too important a problem. I’ve devoted my entire professional life to fighting infectious diseases, this is an outbreak of historic proportions. I’m not going to walk away from this outbreak, no matter who’s the president.”