During Monday’s coronavirus press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci denied that President Donald Trump pressured him to clarify earlier remarks he made about the administration.
Fauci had said over the weekend in a CNN interview that he did get pushback when he was advising the president and other task force members about the outbreak response. During the press briefing, Fauci spoke early on and said that he had made a bad choice of words by saying he had received “pushback,” the Washington Examiner reported.
“The first and only time that I went in and said we should do mitigation strongly, the response was, ‘yes, we’ll do it,’” Fauci said during the briefing.
When the reporter pressed Fauci about whether Trump had pressured him to clarify the remarks, Fauci firmly shut her down. “No. Everything I do is voluntarily, please. Don’t even imply that,” he said with an air of finality, the Examiner reported.
Is Fauci’s job in jeopardy?
Speculation has run rampant in recent weeks about whether Trump might fire Fauci, who has from time to time seemed to contradict the president about aspects of the task force response to the outbreak.
When Trump started talking about re-opening the economy by Easter, for example, Fauci said he thought it was too early. Eventually, Trump agreed and extended social distancing guidelines until April 30.
Fauci also said during the weekend CNN interview that it was possible that more lives could have been saved if earlier mitigation had been done. During the Monday press briefing, however, he cast that comment more as a hypothetical than a criticism of Trump’s actions.
Nevertheless, his comments were used by the press to accuse Trump of responding too slowly, so much so that Trump played a video compilation of Democrat governors praising him for his actions during the Monday briefing.
“The press has not treated these incredible people who have done such a great job — they haven’t treated them fairly. They’re way off. We were way ahead of schedule,” Trump said defensively. “Everything we did I was criticized because I was too early.”
Trump didn’t mention that Fauci made several public comments in January and February that suggested the virus would not pose a serious threat to Americans.
As recently as February 29, Fauci said Americans did not need to change their lifestyles because of the virus. Less than two weeks later, much of the country would be shut down on his recommendation.
Now that deaths and new cases of the coronavirus have seemingly peaked and begun to decline, the expertise of Fauci and counterpart Dr. Deborah Birx may need to be supplemented with expertise from economists and others. Conservatives have pointed to drastically reduced death toll models and questioned why Fauci and Birx would have sole decision-making power on whether to reduce mitigation and get the economy back up and running.