Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci danced around bombshell revelations in legendary journalist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, claiming on Wednesday that he doesn’t “recall” saying that President Donald Trump’s leadership is “rudderless” and the president’s attention span is a “minus number.”
In a series of interviews that were taped by Woodward, the president acknowledged in early February that the coronavirus was deadly and airborne, despite publicly downplaying the virus at the time. Over a month later, after belatedly declaring a national emergency, Trump admitted to Woodward that he “wanted to always play it down” and that he still likes “playing it down.”
Woodward also reported in his book that Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, had some harsh criticisms of the president. Besides calling Trump’s leadership “rudderless,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also reportedly said the president’s “sole purpose is to get reelected.”
Appearing on Fox News’ The Daily Briefing, Fauci was immediately pressed by guest host John Roberts on the president saying he intentionally played down the pandemic.
“You were there through that whole thing. Was that the playbook or was that the president just going his own direction?” Roberts added.
“You know, I don’t think so, John,” Fauci responded. “I don’t recall anything different than in our discussions with the president that he said things quite similar publicly.”
Fauci went on to say he hasn’t read the book or gone over any of the quotes since they came out, noting that while Trump never said anything different to the task force during their meetings he “may not be tuned into the right thing that they’re talking about.”
Roberts, meanwhile, wondered aloud if the doctor sensed whether or not Trump had played down the severity of the virus, prompting Fauci to insist that he “didn’t get any sense” that Trump was distorting information.
“So it may have happened, but I have not seen those kinds of distortion,” Fauci further hedged.
Pressed further by Roberts on Trump’s February comments to Woodward about the dangers of the virus, especially compared to the president’s public minimization of the disease at the time, Fauci said that he was “hesitant to comment” because he didn’t know the full context.
“I don’t recall anything that was any gross distortion in things that I spoke to him about,” he added.
As for the comments attributed to him by Woodward in the book, Fauci issued what was essentially a non-denial denial.
“If you notice, others have said that,” he told Roberts. “You know, you should ask others. I don’t recall that at all.”
Insisting that he didn’t “want to get involved in the kind of stuff that is distracting,” Fauci reiterated that he hadn’t read the book and noted that the quotes Woodward used were from others he allegedly spoke to.
“So you would question that account?” Roberts asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Fauci quickly shot back, looking to move on.