President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci got into a war of words on Saturday over the doctor’s effusive praise for the Trump administration during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The battle came after the Trump campaign released an ad that quotes Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, as saying he “can’t imagine … that anybody could be doing more.”
The 30-second spot, which is airing in the key battleground state of Michigan, came out last week and touts Trump’s recovery from the virus, as well as his administration’s response to the pandemic.
“President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America,” the ad’s narrator says. “Together we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them life-saving drugs in record time, sparing no expense.” The ad then cuts to Fauci for his “can’t imagine” quote.
While there’s no date attributed to the quote, CNN reported that it came from a March interview on Fox News. “During that interview, Fauci praised the White House coronavirus task force’s round-the-clock effort to respond to the pandemic, which he says included numerous White House meetings and late-night phone calls,” CNN wrote.
But the quote may not have been about Trump, but rather Fauci praising himself.
“We’ve never had a threat like this,” CNN quotes Fauci as saying then. “The coordinated response has been… There are a number of adjectives to describe it — impressive, I think is one of them. We’re talking about all hands on deck. 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. I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. It’s every single day. So, I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more.”
Fauci fired back on the ad, saying he doesn’t do politics and that his comment was “taken out of context.”
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” Fauci told CNN. “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.”
But the president also fired back, writing on Twitter, “They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words. We have done a ‘phenomenal’ job, according to certain governors. Many people agree…And now come the Vaccines & Cures, long ahead of projections!”
And Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh pushed back, saying, “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.”
“As Dr. Fauci recently testified in the Senate, President Trump took the virus seriously from the beginning, acted quickly, and saved lives,” Murtaugh added.
They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words. We have done a “phenomenal” job, according to certain governors. Many people agree…And now come the Vaccines & Cures, long ahead of projections! https://t.co/ANqKL4eBqJ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2020
Team Trump also touted Fauci’s praise over the president’s decision to ban travel from China, which came March 13 on MSNBC. “Clearly, early on, we made a travel ban with regard to China. That was a very smart move, right there, because what that did was prevent a major influx from China,” he said. “So we are definitely ahead of the curve on that.”