Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease specialist at the National Institutes of Health, has often appeared to contradict Donald Trump at daily White House press briefings on the coronavirus crisis. Most recently at Saturday’s briefing, Trump declared that a drug widely used to prevent malaria could also be effective in treating COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the virus. Moments later, Fauci took the podium to say that no hard evidence backed up Trump’s claim, as Politico reported.
In an interview published Sunday by the scientific journal Science, Fauci explained how he handles his differences with Trump — and gave Trump credit for not having fired him.
“Even though we disagree on some things, he listens,” Fauci told Science interviewer Jon Cohen, adding that though Trump “has his own style,” he will listen to Fauci’s views on “substantive issues.”
In an appearance on the CBS News program Face The Nation on Sunday, as quoted by Politico, Fauci attempted to brush off his public disagreement with Trump over the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat disease caused by the coronavirus.
Fauci said that his statements were made from a “medical, scientific standpoint,” while Trump was “trying to bring hope to the people.”
But in the Science interview, Fauci appeared more frank about his feelings during press conferences when, in Cohen’s words, Trump makes statements that “aren’t true and aren’t factual.”
“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci told Science. He added that when Trump makes such false statements, Fauci will often attempt to speak to him off-camera, to “get it corrected for the next time.”
In another noteworthy incident at a press briefing about the pandemic, taking place on Friday, Fauci appeared exasperated as Trump went into a rant about the State Department, saying, “as they call it, the Deep State Department.”
Seen in the background, standing behind Trump and to his right, Fauci appeared to “facepalm,” that is, hold his hand over his forehead and face in frustration.
But when Cohen asked Fauci if Trump or anyone in the administration had criticized him for the apparent expression of exasperation, the 79-year-old doctor replied “no comment.”
In a separate interview, also published on Sunday in The Atlantic magazine, Fauci said that neither Trump nor anyone in the administration had pressured him to deliver any specific “message” about the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci told The Atlantic that he had encountered a similar situation in the 1980s when he was forced to “speak the truth to Ronald Reagan” about the HIV/AIDS crisis, which at the time was not being taken seriously by the Reagan administration.
“I was, like, the lone wolf out there,” he told the magazine.
“This is going to be big. We’ve got to do something about it.”