Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become the face of the White House’s scientific and medical response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, frequently appearing alongside President Donald Trump during task force news conferences.
But he and the president have not always agreed on the facts surrounding the outbreak.
For example, after Trump played up a drug used to treat malaria as a potential “game-changer” in the fight against coronavirus, Fauci said the only evidence that the drug could be helpful was “anecdotal.” Fauci has also contradicted Trump on the timetable for a vaccine and the severity of the outbreak.
In an interview with Science magazine, Fauci said that he and Trump don’t disagree on substantive issues.
“Even though we disagree on some things, he listens. He goes his own way. He has his own style,” Fauci said. “But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”
But he said during news conferences, the president says things “in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.”
When asked about Trump’s claim that China could have told the world about the coronavirus three or four months earlier, Fauci grew defensive.
“What do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?” he asked Science staff writer Jon Cohen.
“The way it happened is that after he made that statement, I told the appropriate people, it doesn’t comport, because two or three months earlier would have been September,” Fauci explained. Though China has been criticized for a lack of transparency and not disclosing information sooner, the first known case of the disease was in early December.
“The next time they sit down with him and talk about what he’s going to say, they will say, by the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that,” Fauci continued. “But I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”