Dr. Anthony Fauci is not happy that his comments about the COVID-19 response are being used in a new Trump ad. The pandemic response is a primary issue in the election, as the Biden campaign has accused the president of not following the experts’ recommendations.
Fauci appears to be mistaking having his comments used as an endorsement for having them used as a rebuttal. Trump and Fauci’s working relationship has been the source of significant media speculation since March. Both Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx have answered questions about President Trump’s willingness to listen to them in responding to COVID-19. In an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci was asked directly if the president was attentive to the experts:
“He does listen,” Fauci told Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor in chief of JAMA during the interview to discuss recent developments in the global COVID-19 pandemic. “He may go out and express it in a different way.”
“At the end of the day, he takes very seriously what I and Dr. (Deborah) Birx and others tell him,” Fauci told the JAMA editor in chief. “It’s just a difference in style.”
When the media cherry-picked his comments answering a hypothetical question in an interview with Jake Tapper to make it look like President Trump ignored the advice of experts, Fauci corrected the record:
“The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president to actually have a ‘shut down’ in the sense of not really a shut down but to really have strong mitigation. We discussed it, obviously there would be concern by some that, in fact, there might have some negative consequences. Nonetheless, the president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation,” Fauci said.
Fauci added: “The second time that I went with Dr. Birx into the president and said, ’15 days are not enough. We need to go 30 days.’ … the president went with the health recommendations and we extended it another 30 days.”
In a statement to CNN, who had asked if he approved of the use of his comments in the ad, Dr. Fauci said his words were taken out of context:
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.
That appears to be the point. The ad is talking about the broad government response undertaken by the administration. The full response was televised for weeks during Coronavirus Task Force briefings, which brought representatives from this whole-government approach to the podium every day. From the military taking over the supply chain for medical supplies to the economic advisors working with private industry to transform production plants and the agency heads from various agencies, there were many moving parts.
The media stopped covering these briefings in full as it became evident that the American people were listening because they were trapped at home. The impressive operation seemed to resonate, and the president’s approval started to rise.
As the Biden campaign runs with the narrative that President Trump did not marshal a robust response and ignored experts’ advice, the Trump campaign is swinging back.
The quote from Fauci is an accurate description of the entire response. His full comments in the interview with Fox News in March are even more complimentary:
“We’ve never had a threat like this. 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,” Fauci said at the time. “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.”
The comment is not an endorsement of the president. It is an endorsement of the response, which Dr. Fauci played a key role in. If he meant what he said in March, it is not distinctly different from what is portrayed in the ad.
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