Dr. Anthony Fauci pushed back against efforts by the media to blame President Donald Trump for the devastation of the coronavirus.
The infectious diseases expert told the New York Times podcast “The Daily” that President Trump has taken the coronavirus seriously “from the beginning,” contradicting those who have accused the president of mishandling the crisis since its early stages. The media have portrayed Dr. Fauci as the ignored voice of authority in a White House controlled by a clueless president, but Fauci refuses to play that prescribed role.
Fauci: Trump took coronavirus seriously “from beginning”
As thousands of Americans have lost their lives and millions their jobs, a clear media narrative has taken shape: the devastation is entirely the fault of an inexperienced, chaotic president who wasted precious time. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has even floated forming a special commission to investigate Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
Trump and his Republican allies have fired back that the left was preoccupied with impeachment while the pandemic was taking off, and that Trump’s January decision to restrict travel from China was an early decisive action (Democrats called Trump a racist at the time.)
Dr. Fauci, for his part, has dismissed speculation that the White House missed an opportunity to limit the death toll, likening the crisis to fighting in a “fog of war” on the podcast.
“The Daily” host Michael Barbaro needled Fauci with predictable questions about what went wrong in the early months of the pandemic — “Why wasn’t travel restricted sooner?” “Why wasn’t there more testing?” — but the coronavirus task force member didn’t criticize his boss.
Instead, he defended Trump’s travel restrictions to China and said that Trump has always taken the crisis seriously. The doctor did regret the initial failures with testing, which he attributed to the limitations of the system in place.
“I think that we sealed off from China very quickly with regard to the realization of what might happen. In fact, you might recall, we received a lot of criticism for doing that,” Fauci said. “When you’re living through the fog of war, it isn’t that easy […] there’s always that what could have been, or what should have been.”
“I think he always understood the seriousness of it,” Fauci continued. “Right now, as the numbers are becoming crystal clear, he himself is articulating an awareness of that seriousness. But from the beginning, he always took it seriously.”
Fauci: Trump “listens”
With American deaths surging, Trump is using starker language, warning Americans to prepare for a “rough two weeks” as the White House cites models which predict up to 240,000 U.S. deaths, even with mitigation. Previously, Trump had compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and said he hoped to have the economy back open by Easter.
The media often tries to portray a conflict between Trump and Fauci, with Fauci playing the role of rational but sidelined expert to a rudderless president, but Fauci has consistently said that they are separated mostly by style rather than substance. Trump recently extended federal social distancing guidelines until April 30, a step that seemed to bring him closer into alignment with the health expert’s more drastic recommendations.
“The President has his own style, that’s obvious to the American public. When I speak to him about issues that are substantive, he listens,” Fauci said.