President Trump on Sunday retweeted a call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert whose steady competence during the coronavirus outbreak has stood out during the Trump administration’s otherwise botched response.
The original tweet, from former Republican congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine, referred to comments Fauci made on CNN Sunday. “I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci told Jake Tapper when asked if earlier social distancing would have prevented deaths in the U.S. Lorraine suggested that comments Fauci made in February make him a hypocrite. Her tweet ended: “Time to #FireFauci…”
Trump boosted the tweet and defended himself by referencing his February ban on travel from China, a move that he now claims prevented “hundreds of thousands of deaths.”
The Fauci tweet came after Trump spent Easter blaming Congress, the states, and the Obama administration for his administration’s slow coronavirus response. It also came amid a wave of reporting describing a litany of overlooked signs, ignored warnings, and missed opportunities by Trump and his administration in the early days of the virus.
Among that reporting was a new detail: Fauci and other public-health officials in the administration wanted President Trump to encourage social distancing as early as February. It would take three weeks, during which the U.S. went from 15 confirmed coronavirus cases to 4,226, for Trump to urge social distancing. Tapper asked why it took Trump so long to take Fauci’s advice.
“We look at it from a pure health standpoint,” Fauci explained. “We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it’s not. But we — it is what it is. We are where we are right now.”
Trump has, until Sunday, refrained from publicly attacking Fauci, despite the doctor’s status as a more trusted source of information on coronavirus and his willingness to publicly contradict Trump. But the president’s allies haven’t been as reluctant. It’s not just the #FireFauci hashtag either. To Trump’s most hard-core fans, the 79-year-old doctor is a “Deep-State Hillary Clinton–loving stooge” who’s shown his disrespect of Trump by “undermining him in a time of war.”
Despite the president’s decision to blow off some steam online on Sunday night, the White House clarified on Monday that Trump does not intend to oust the top coronavirus doctor.