Days after Dr. Anthony Fauci said he “didn’t get any sense” that President Donald Trump had willfully distorted information on coronavirus, the top infectious disease expert said it was “not a good thing” that Trump admitted to intentionally downplaying the threat of the virus.
Shortly after audio recordings and excerpts from Bob Woodward’s upcoming Trump book were released, featuring Trump telling the investigative journalist that he knew the virus was airborne and deadly in early February, Fauci told Fox News he didn’t “recall” some quotes attributed to him. Woodward reported that Fauci, as a White House coronavirus task force member, called Trump’s leadership “rudderless” and said the president’s attention span is a “minus number.”
Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Friday, Fauci was pressed by host Andrea Mitchell on the president’s lengthy public stance against social distancing and masks despite acknowledging to Woodward this past winter that the virus was dangerous and contagious.
“Doesn’t that help cause widespread resistance to wearing face coverings?” Mitchell added.
“Well, Andrea, that’s quite unfortunate, obviously, because as you know, we, the physicians and the scientists on the coronavirus task force, have been stressing continually about the importance of wearing masks for that very reason,” Fauci responded, noting that the virus is spread via droplets and aerosol.
“You’re absolutely correct, we’ve got to get that message across,” he continued. “And when it gets muddled, that’s unfortunate.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, went on to highlight the president saying to Woodward on March 19 that “I wanted to always play it down” on coronavirus, something Trump has now repeatedly claimed that he did to exude calmness and prevent panic.
“After hearing that, hearing those tapes, with him acknowledging that, do you still believe he was not trying to distort the reality?” Mitchell wondered aloud.
“Well, you know, obviously I have gotten asked that question before. And certainly, there were disagreements, as you know, there were times when I was out there telling the American public how difficult this is, how we’re having a really serious problem,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases replied. “And the president was saying it’s something that’s going to disappear, which obviously is not the case. So there was and is some disagreements in what we say and what comes out from the White House.”
Reiterating that he’s just “trying to get the right thing done” in the pandemic, Fauci then criticized the president’s remarks while simultaneously saying he can’t speak to the entire context of Trump’s conversation with Woodward.
“I can’t have any explanation for the conversations between the author of the book, Bob Woodward, and the president,” he said. “So, I mean, I can’t comment any more on that, except to say, yes, when you downplay something that’s really a threat, that is not a good thing.”
The MSNBC host also brought up the quotes attributed to Fauci in Woodward’s book, namely Fauci allegedly saying that the president’s “sole purpose is to get reelected,” asking him if he believes there’s too much focus on politics in the coronavirus response.
“I mean, you have to be not asleep to realize that this is a very divisive situation we’re in right now,” Fauci stated. “I mean, we know that because there are people who attack things that I say and people that praise things that I say. So there really is divisiveness. When you’re dealing with a political atmosphere, it makes it that much more difficult.”
“Having said that, we really need to forge ahead and do everything we can to contain this outbreak,” he concluded. “What you said at the beginning of this discussion, as we enter the fall and the winter, we’ve got to do everything we can to try to prevent further surges and leave politics out of it, because they do nothing but get in the way.”