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Donald Trump swipes at Dr. Anthony Fauci over mask guidance
Donald Trump attacked the credibility of infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, during a rally in North Carolina. Trump offered a reminder that Fauci at one point said that people should not wear masks to protect against the coronavirus. (Oct. 15)
WASHINGTON – The relationship between President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has publicly eroded as the coronavirus pandemic has raged through the United States, with the two officials often disagreeing on issues from what drugs to use and a vaccine timeline to something as simple as the fact that COVID-19 isn’t “going to disappear.”
Fauci is a leading member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, making him a trusted, and popular, voice as the U.S. deals with a deadly pandemic.
But over the course of the virus’ spread, Trump’s relationship with Fauci, who has worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations since 1984, has vacillated from support to disdain.
When Trump said at his final presidential debate against rival Joe Biden last Thursday that he thinks Fauci might be a Democrat, without any evidence, it was not the first time he had made a sweeping statement to undermine Fauci’s credibility in one breath while saying “he happens to be a good person” in the next.
Here is a timeline of the pandemic, reports about their relationship, and public statements from the two men regarding the virus and each other:
January: Coronavirus task force forms
Jan. 20: First case of SARS-CoV-2 is found in Washington state.
Jan. 29: The White House announces it had established a coronavirus task force in late January. Fauci is appointed to this task force.
Jan. 31: Some travel restrictions announced. Fauci speaks in support of them.
February: Signs of disagreement
Feb. 3: Fauci again speaks favorably of the partial travel restrictions, referring to them as part of “good public health measures.”
Feb. 10: Trump, at a political rally, says the coronavirus will be gone by April when the weather gets warmer, but doesn’t offer scientific explanation.
Feb. 16: Fauci says on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “it would be a stretch to assume that it’s going to disappear with the warm weather.”
Feb. 28: Trump calls the Democrats’ “politicizing” of COVID-19 their “new hoax” at a rally.
Feb. 29: Fauci defers commenting on Trump’s “hoax” comment. He also says there is “no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.”
The White House will list this later as a mistake Fauci made, without context of the full quote:
“Right now the risk is still low, but this could change… When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread.”
March: More disagreements
March 8: Fauci discourages most people from wearing masks, saying evidence doesn’t yet they’d be helpful for the public.
March 17: Trump compliments Fauci’s popularity, saying, “He’s become a major television star for all the right reasons.”
March 20: At a White House coronavirus press briefing, Fauci downplays Trump’s declaration of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” and states potential of drug was “anecdotal evidence.”
Trump, who had been standing behind Fauci, then stepped forward to clarify: “We’ll see. We’re going to know soon.”
March 22: Fauci says he can’t “jump in front” of Trump when he gives misinformation.
Trump states he wants states open by April 12, but Fauci cautions him to “be flexible.”
April: Differences on hydroxychloroquine
April 3: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reverses on masks.
April 5: Trump and Fauci again tout different messages regarding hydroxychloroquine.
During the White House press briefing, Trump then blocks Fauci from answering a question about hydroxychloroquine and scolds the journalist who asked.
April 12: Fauci says on CNN that earlier efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 “obviously” could have saved lives but top health officials faced “a lot of pushback about shutting things down.”
Later that evening, Trump retweets a supporter’s post saying Fauci should be fired.
April 13: Fauci backtracks, saying it was a “the wrong choice of words.” When asked if clarifying his remarks was “voluntarily,” he replied: “Everything I do is voluntarily. Please. Don’t even imply that.”
Fauci said that he and other officials recommended the China travel restrictions to Trump. At that same briefing, Trump maintained that he and Fauci had been “on the same page” about dealing with the coronavirus “from the beginning.”
April 26: Reports break that Trump wants to sideline Fauci from coronavirus briefings.
May: Fauci testifies in Senate
May 1: The White House blocks Fauci from testifying about the coronavirus before House panel.
May 12: Fauci appears before the Senate to testify after Trump picked the Republican-led Senate as a friendlier forum than the Democratic-controlled House.
Fauci warns the Senate that easing stay-at-home restrictions must be done carefully, shows some skepticism for school reopenings and dismisses the prospect that the virus might disappear without a vaccine, a claim routinely made by Trump.
May 13: Trump slams Fauci for his warnings to the Senate regarding reopening too quickly, saying Fauci “wants to play all sides of the equation” and didn’t give an “acceptable answer.”
May 14: Trumpincorrectly says on Fox News, “When I closed the border to China, [Fauci] disagreed with that” and the decision to restrict travel from China was “criticized by everybody, including Dr. Fauci.”
A CBS poll shows that Fauci is trusted by most and viewed favorably by a 3-1 margin regarding COVID-19.
June: Disagreement over football
June 1: Fauci says the task force is no longer holding daily meetings.
June 27: The government’s coronavirus task force briefs the public for the first time since April as new coronavirus infections per day in the U.S. soar to an all-time high.
July: White House gives media list of Fauci statements
July 1: Fauci discourages the public from attending events like Trump’s fireworks display at Mount Rushmore: “You should avoid whenever possible gathering in crowds where people cannot maintain physical distance.”
July 6: Fauci said that the U.S.’ handle on the coronavirus outbreak is “really not good.”
July 7: Trump says he disagrees with Fauci’s outlook on the virus: “We’ve done a good job,” Trump said. “I think we are going to be in two, three, four weeks, by the time we next speak, I think we’re going to be in very good shape.”
July 9: Trump states Fauci has “made a lot of mistakes” but calls him a “nice man.”
On FiveThirtyEight’s PODCAST-19, Fauci says the U.S. is not doing great in its response, and that “if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach.”
July 10: Fauci says he hasn’t personally briefed Trump in two months. He also says he is trying to figure out where Trump got false claim that 99% of COVID-19 cases are harmless.
July 11: White House aides release a “lengthy list” of remarks that Fauci made at the beginning of the pandemic to undermine his credibility — including early comments regarding mask-wearing.
July 13: The New York Times reports Fauci has not had direct contact with Trump in more than five weeks.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insists Trump and Fauci have always had a “very good working relationship.”
Trump later says he likes Fauci personally but they don’t always agree.
July 14: Fauci tells students not to get involved in “political nonsense” and rather “trust respected medical authorities.”
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro writes an opposing view to a USA TODAY editorial that called Fauci a “national treasure.”
July 15: The White House seeks to distance itself from Navarro’s comments in the op-ed, with Trump saying, “That’s Peter Navarro, but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
Fauci is interviewed in The Atlantic and calls the series of attacks from the week “bizarre,” describing them as “nonsense” and “completely wrong.”
July 21: Fauci says on NPR he is pleased Trump was seen wearing a mask, adding that it is a signal “from the top” that it is important to slow the spread of COVID-19 and a “consistent message” is necessary.
July 24: Fauci calls Trump’s COVID-19 briefings “helpful”: “The president has gone out there and is saying things now that I think important, having to do with wearing masks, staying away from crowded places, so I think that they have been helpful now.”
July 27: Trump shares clips from a video that claim Fauci has been misleading the public on the use of hydroxychloroquine. Some of the the posts were removed by Twitter.
July 28: Fauci defends himself against the tweets, saying, “I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.”
July 29: Trump ponders why Fauci’s approval rating is better than his, saying Fauci’s “got this high approval rating. So why don’t I have a high approval rating with respect — and the administration — with respect to the virus? We should have it very high.”
“So it sort of is curious,” Trump continued, “a man works for us, with us, very closely, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx also, very highly thought of — and yet, they’re highly thought of, but nobody likes me? It can only be my personality, that’s all.”
July 31: Fauci testifies in Congress with statements contrary to Trump’s regarding COVID-19: “I do not believe it would disappear because it’s such a highly transmissible virus,” Fauci says, and adds that the U.S. has continued to see a surge in cases compared to some other countries.
August: Fauci ‘not pleased’ with how things are going
Aug. 1: Trump slams Fauci’s testimony in Congress as “wrong!”
Fauci says Birx was referring to the “inherent community spread” that is occurring.
Aug 13: Fauci says he is “not pleased” with how things are going.
Sept. 4: Fauci says he is “unsure” what Trump means when claiming the country is rounding the corner.
Sept. 9: First stories and recordings break about Bob Woodward’s reporting on Trump’s comments regarding COVID-19, including Trump telling the veteran journalist he wanted to downplay it.
Sept. 11: Fauci says Trump wanting to downplay the coronavirus is “not a good thing” and that the U.S. can expect no “normality” until 2021.
Sept. 26: The White House holds an event for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Attendees are seen not wearing masks nor social distancing. A USA TODAY analysis shows the event may have exposed many to the coronavirus.
Sept. 28: Fauci says he is concerned about misleading information being given to Trump, including from Dr. Scott Atlas, who is not an infectious disease expert: “Well yeah, I’m concerned that sometimes things are said that are really taken either out of context or actually incorrect.”
October: Trump tests positive for COVID
Oct. 2: Trump announces he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. Several other White House and campaign officials also test positive for coronavirus in the surrounding days.
Trump outbreak: Contact tracing and visualizing the people exposed to COVID-19
Oct. 9: Fauci calls the Barrett event a “superspreader”: “Well, I think the data speaks for themselves. We had a superspreader event in the White House, and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks.”
Oct. 10: Trump campaign runs an ad featuring Fauci saying “I can’t imagine … that anybody could be doing more.” He is referring to the government response, not Trump specifically.
Oct 12: Fauci says the ad should be taken down as it misses full context context from his statement. He reaffirms that he plans on staying apolitical.
“It’s so clear that I’m not a political person,” Fauci continued. “And I have never — either directly or indirectly — endorsed a political candidate. And to take a completely out of context statement and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought was really very disappointing.”
Oct. 15: Trump claims without evidence at a political rally that Fauci is a Democrat, saying, “But he’s a nice guy so I keep him around, right? We’ll keep him around.” This will become a common line of attack.
Oct. 18: Fauci says on “60 Minutes” he is “absolutely not” surprised Trump contracted COVID-19 after seeing him surrounded by people not wearing face masks at the Barrett nomination event.
Speaking at a rally this day, Trump mocks Biden for saying he would “listen to the scientists.”
Oct. 19: A day after Fauci’s interview, during a conference call with his campaign staff, Trump calls Fauci a “disaster” who drops a “bomb” every time he goes on television, but it would be “a bigger bomb if you fire him.”
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump says.
Later that day, the president also posts a tweet criticizing Fauci:
Oct. 22: During the presidential debate, Trump says he’s “not knocking” Fauci before criticizing him on early mask stance.
Oct. 23: Fauci says Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in “several months” and is listening to Atlas.
He adds that he hasn’t directly spoken to or interacted with Trump in some time, and the number of task force meetings have “diminished.”
Fauci then says on CNN that attacks from Trump “though people may find it difficult to believe, are mere distractions.”
“They don’t bother me. I know what my job is, and I’ve gotta do it and I’m going to do it. So that kind of — whatever you want to call it — is to me, I just, it’s noise.”