Dr. Anthony Fauci scolded CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday for trying to get a misleading “soundbite” out of him.
The infectious diseases expert got into a testy exchange with CNN’s notoriously self-important reporter over whether President Donald Trump acted quickly enough to deaden the impact of the coronavirus, Breitbart reported. Fauci, who has made no secret of his annoyance with the media’s spin on the pandemic, pushed back against Acosta’s attempts to take him and others in the Trump administration “out of context.”
Getting the soundbite
Despite the gravity of the crisis, the mainstream media has largely covered the coronavirus pandemic like any other Trump-era scandal, bringing a mixture of sensationalism, speculation, and innuendo to bear on reporting of a deadly pandemic that has killed more Americans than the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Lately, the media has been particularly focused on blaming Trump for failing to respond aggressively early on.
The president’s press briefings on the crisis have become opportunities, like always, for hostile reporters to take potshots at the president — and Jim Acosta hasn’t spared any chances to push his network’s agenda. Acosta snidely asked at Tuesday’s briefing whether the White House’s predictions of up to 240,000 deaths from the disease — even with social distancing — would be different had Trump implemented social distancing sooner.
“But you understand the painful part of my question and please I don’t mean to put you on the spot but– but–,” Acosta asked Dr. Deborah Birx, according to a transcript from RealClearPolitics, “there may be Americans at home saying if we had started this sooner we might not have 100,000 to 200,000 Americans dying.”
Dr. Fauci, echoing Dr. Birx, said that there is no answer to Acosta’s question — assuming it was meant as a question — since it isn’t yet clear when the spread started. He went on to chasten Acosta’s attempt to get a “soundbite.”
“If there was no virus in the background, there was nothing to mitigate. If there was a virus there that we didn’t know about, then the answer to your question is probably yes,” Dr. Fauci said, according to RealClearPolitics. “The only trouble with that is that whenever you come out and say something like that, it always becomes almost a soundbite that gets taken out of context.”
Fauci added, “I believe, Jim, that we acted very, very early in that.”
Watch the moment for yourself below:
Dr. Fauci has come to play an important role in the media’s coronavirus narrative, playing the part of the voice of logic and authority in an otherwise rudderless White House. Fauci has mostly avoided criticizing the media, but he has pushed back against attempts to make him and Trump into enemies, as The Hill notes.
Meanwhile, many in the media have accused Trump of spreading “disinformation” at his press briefings, likening them to downsized Trump rallies. CNN and MSNBC have even started cutting off the briefings, apparently to protect the American people from hearing the president’s “lies.” But the left-leaning media, and Acosta too, has taken plenty of criticism.
Many have pointed out that CNN, including Acosta, used terms like “Wuhan virus” before pivoting to calling Trump racist for using similar terminology, as Fox News reported. And as the media claims that Trump downplayed the virus early on, Trump has not tired of pointing out that he closed off travel to China in January, a move that brought accusations of racism from Democrats.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s briefing, Acosta gave Trump a back-handed compliment about his tone shift, telling Anderson Cooper that the briefing was “downright chilling” and that Trump is “scared” now that he realizes the severity of the crisis, according to Mediaite. Acosta is still pushing propaganda — but it looks like Fauci isn’t playing along.