'We tried our best': Retiring Dr. Anthony Fauci recalls challenges of serving Donald Trump during COVID-19
Doctor Anthony Fauci – the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president of the United States – reflected upon his service under former President Donald Trump in a Zoom interview published in The Guardianon Sunday.
Fauci – whose retirement begins on January 1st, 2023 – "has advised seven US presidents about a long list of outbreaks including HIV, Ebola, Zika, bird flu and pandemic flu, but one stands out: Donald Trump," the paper noted. "When COVID-19 emerged from China in late 2019 it was America’s epic misfortune to have a president who reportedly made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements over four years, and who reportedly wanted to use nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the US, at a moment when scientific truth was everything. More than a million Americans have died in the pandemic, the highest recorded death toll in the world."
The eighty-two-year-old physician recalled that working for Trump came with unique frustrations and challenges, mainly because Trump habitually spread misinformation and promoted pseudoscientific solutions for combating the coronavirus.
“I don’t want to get into sharp criticisms,” Fauci said. “I think it speaks for itself. Obviously, I was put in an uncomfortable position of having to directly contradict what the president said because what he was saying was not based on any science or data and was, quite frankly, totally incorrect about hydroxychloroquine and bleach and ivermectin, when the virus is going to disappear like magic. I didn’t like having to be contradictory to the president but I had to do it."
Fauci conceded, however, that "there are some good things that happened. Operation Warp Speed [the federal effort to develop and distribute vaccines] is a resounding success and you have to give the Trump Administration credit for doing that.”
Despite their frequent disagreements, Fauci stated that Trump 'was never disrespectful' and that 'the 'Fire Fauci', 'he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,' 'everything he said was wrong' was after I no longer was with him."
Fauci added that “when I was with him and seeing him in person in the Oval Office, he was fine. I didn’t agree with what he was saying but he was not aggressive against me. He was a gentleman about it. It’s just that I disagreed with some of the things he was saying.”
But Fauci admitted that his patience was tested when Trump encouraged Americans to inject industrial chemicals and take medications that were not approved to treat SARS-COV-2.
“It only became uncomfortable when somebody asked about hydroxychloroquine. He said, 'oh, it’s great, it’s the wonder drug, it’s going to cure.' Then one of the reporters raised their hand and said, what do you think, Dr. Fauci? That’s when I had to walk up to the podium and say, 'No, I’m sorry, I don’t agree,' and that was tough but I had to do it because I had to fulfill my responsibility to the American public.”
Fauci recalled that his then-counterpart, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, was “paralyzed in that moment because it was so unexpected."
Fauci also defended shuttering schools and implementing lockdowns, which ignited a ferocious public debate that is unlikely to be quelled anytime soon.
"We tried our best given our best judgment and our analysis of what was going on around us to make recommendations. I don’t think anybody got it completely 100% right but the idea to say that you should have not put any restrictions on anything at a time when there was a tsunami of infections and New York City hospitals were getting overrun, practically – think of Elmhurst hospital, remember those pictures of the cooler trucks with bodies piling up in that - you had to do something pretty significant to slow that down," Fauci said. “Shutting down temporarily, I believe, was the right thing to do. If you look at the record and go back to the clips, you’ll see how many times I said, we’ve got to try our best to get the kids back to school as quickly as we possibly can and as safely as we possibly can. On the one hand, I was in favor of shutting things down temporarily, but I certainly felt we needed to open up as quickly and as safely as we could.”
Fauci further revealed that he approves of President Joe Biden's handling of the lingering crisis.
"He's done it to the best of our advice and his judgment," said Fauci. "It's been done well. I do believe that.”
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