The Rivalry Between Fauci and Trump
Dr. Fauci responds to a reporter's question regarding COVID-19 in March. Fauci has been President Trump's top COVID-19 advisor throughout the pandemic. (The White House/Flickr)
Dr. Anthony Fauci is a physician and immunologist who has advised six presidents on preventing, diagnosing, and treating many global health issues, such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and Ebola. He leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. Fauci has held this position for over 35 years, designating him as one of the top health experts during the coronavirus pandemic. But now he is known not only as President Trump’s top COVID-19 advisor, but also a rival.
Criticism Against Trump
Fauci has disagreed with many of Trump’s actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, criticizing him for acting too carelessly. This included the president’s use of hydroxychloroquine, lifting travel bans, reopening schools, and restarting the NFL season. Trump argued that places such as school campuses should open because COVID-19 doesn’t affect students as severely as the elderly. On July 7, Trump claimed that the U.S. was experiencing the lowest mortality rate in the world. Fauci argued that the nation shouldn’t be taking comfort in a lower rate of death because of the high possibility that the rate will rise again in the future. When daily cases stayed around 40,000, Fauci warned Trump and other government officials that they must change their ways and implement stricter safety protocols, or else there would be a surge in cases. This prediction now rings true, with the U.S. hitting 100,000 new COVID-cases in a single day on November 5.
Recently, Fauci accused President Trump of taking his words out of context by featuring a clip of him saying, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more,” in a 30-second campaign ad. Fauci claimed that this quote, which was used without his consent, appeared to be a political endorsement, despite not aligning with either party. He told CNN that “in my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate.” The quote used in the ad originally came from an interview with Fox News, in which he describes all the efforts he and groups of other White House members have been putting forth in response to the virus. Fauci explained that they work “throughout the day and into the night…every single day.”
As the election crept closer and closer, Fauci grew worried and criticized the Trump campaign’s large-scale rallies, in which no social distancing protocols were put in place, saying that the president was “asking for trouble.” In the campaign’s Minnesota event last month, it was reported that nine individuals connected to the rally contracted the virus, sending two to the hospital and one in intensive care. Fauci explained that now is an even worse time to be gathering in large groups, due to the rapid increase in the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases in more than 32 states.
Trump Contracts COVID-19
On October 1, Trump announced in a Tweet, “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” It was reported that he had been experiencing mild symptoms of the virus, including shortness of breath, fatigue, and cough. Later that day he was transferred to Walter Reed Military Medical Center where he was given doses of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, a combination of two antibodies directed against a key protein of the virus. After his treatment, Trump claimed that he was not only cured, but was now immune to the disease. Currently, it is unknown if the treatment aids severe COVID-19 cases, but it did seem to improve symptoms in non-hospitalized patients.
When the news broke, Fauci disagreed with Trump’s statement, arguing that although it did help him recover, he shouldn’t promote reliance on this cocktail of treatments. Instead of treating hospitalized patients, Fauci emphasized the importance of finding vaccines and therapies that will help prevent individuals from contracting the disease in the first place.
Fauci also said that he wasn’t at all surprised by the diagnosis after calling the celebration for Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court a “superspreader event” where there were no social distancing practices in place and no masks. “When I saw that on TV, I said: ‘Oh, my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s going to be a problem” Fauci said in an interview on “60 Minutes.” Although the ceremony was held outdoors with many of the attendees being tested beforehand, photos and videos from the event showed many of them exchanging handshakes, hugs, and having conversations in close proximity. As such, Fauci didn’t approve of the fact that only three days after hospitalization, President Trump decided to return to the White House, and continued holding political rallies across the country.
Trump Fights Back
President Donald Trump has also become more vocal in his criticisms of Fauci, especially after Fauci said that the administration’s methods of handling the crisis had fallen short. In an interview with the Washington Post, Fauci said that he believes Democratic candidate Joe Biden “is taking it seriously from a public health perspective,” while President Donald Trump is “looking at it from a different perspective” of reopening the country and boosting the economy. White House spokesman Judd Deere later accused Fauci of “breaking with all norms” by choosing a political stance in his support for Biden. He argued that Fauci should be pushing for a change in Trump’s strategy instead of “criticising the president in the media and mak[ing] his political leanings known.”
Trump also highlighted why he doesn’t trust Fauci. In a call with his campaign staff on October 19, Trump, although claiming Fauci was a “very nice man,” described his health advisor as a “disaster” and that “if we listened to him, we’d have 700-800,000 deaths right now.” After arriving in his campaign rally in Arizona, Trump told reporters that “he’s called a lot of bad calls.” The “bad calls” the president was referring to were instances in which Fauci gave advice that the president perceived to be wrong. One notable example of this was in the beginning stages of the pandemic, when Fauci vocalized that he was against routine mask-wearing, though the country is now expected to wear masks at all times. In a recent Tweet, Trump pointed out that the World Health Organization’s Europe chief said lockdowns should be a last resort, seeming contradictory to Fauci’s beliefs.
Not long ago, Trump hinted at firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, if he is reelected. At a rally in Florida on November 1, Trump expressed his frustration surrounding the constant media coverage of COVID-19. His supporters erupted into chants saying, “Fire Fauci,” to which Trump responded, “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait till a little bit after the election.” Although it isn’t clear if the president can directly fire the doctor, Trump is pushing a new executive order to make it easier to dismiss federal workers.