President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was ‘absolutely not’ surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump ‘continues to lie to us’ about coronavirus MORE derided Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci says he was ‘absolutely not’ surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Whatever happened to Deborah Birx? Infectious disease expert calls White House advisers herd immunity claims ‘pseudoscience’ MORE as a “disaster” and claimed that Americans have tired of the novel coronavirus during a call with campaign staff on Monday.
“People are tired of COVID. Yup, there’s going to be spikes, there’s going to be no spikes, there’s going to be vaccines. With or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID,” Trump said on the private call, according to audio obtained by The Hill. “I have the biggest rallies I have ever had and we have COVID. People are saying whatever, just leave us alone. They’re tired of it.”
Trump then accused Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, of providing inconsistent advice about the coronavirus pandemic and claimed baselessly that if he had followed all of Fauci’s advice the United States would have “700,000 to 800,000 deaths right now.”
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, these people, these people that have gotten it wrong. Fauci is a nice guy, he’s been here for 500 years, he called every one of them wrong,” Trump told campaign staffers.
Trump zeroed in on how Fauci and other public health experts changed their position on mask usage early on in the pandemic when more concrete evidence emerged showing face coverings could blunt the asymptomatic spread of the virus. Trump also claimed that Fauci disagreed with his decision to restrict travel from China, despite the fact that Fauci has supported the president’s decision publicly.
“He’s like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how he said, do not wear facemasks — that’s a number of months ago. He said, do not close it up to China. I have a list of 15 things,” Trump said. “And yet we keep him. Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb. But there is a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci is a disaster. I mean, this guy, if I listened to him, we would have 500,000 deaths.”
“Fauci, if we listened to him, we’d have 700,000 to 800,000 deaths right now. So, with that, I get along with him. If there’s a reporter on, you have it just the way I said it. I couldn’t care less,” the president continued.
Trump, who is in Nevada on a campaign swing out West, unloaded on Fauci during a call with about 2,000 staff Monday morning. A number of reporters listened in on the call.
The president’s remarks Monday came after Fauci in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” said he was not surprised Trump contracted the coronavirus after a White House event recognizing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee during which guests were not wearing masks or social distancing.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said in the “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday. “When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s got to be a problem.’ And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”
A number of individuals who attended the event at the end of September later tested positive for the virus.
Trump has repeatedly spoken critically of Fauci in recent weeks, amid a remarkable public spat between the top health official and his campaign regarding the use of comments Fauci made during a March news interview in a campaign advertisement.
Fauci has insisted his statements were taken out of context and asked the campaign to take down the ad, but the campaign has declined to do so, saying his words are accurate and taken from a nationally broadcast television interview.
“I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate. And here I am, they’re sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous,” Fauci said on “60 Minutes.”
Last week, Trump spoke dismissively about Fauci at a campaign rally in North Carolina, similarly suggesting he had offered inconsistent advice about the coronavirus and claiming that he is a Democrat. Trump also mocked Fauci on Twitter last week by invoking the wild first pitch he threw out at the Washington Nationals’ July season opener.
Still, Trump’s comments on Monday represented perhaps the most forceful critique he has levelled of the top health official to date. Hours after the conclusion of the private campaign, the president continued to attack Fauci on Twitter, remarking about the amount of “airtime” that Fauci receives and again mocking him for throwing “perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball.”
The coronavirus, which has killed nearly 220,000 Americans and sent the U.S. economy into a freefall, has been a dominant issue during the 2020 election campaign.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Trump ‘continues to lie to us’ about coronavirus Rally crowd chants ‘lock him up’ as Trump calls Biden family ‘a criminal enterprise’ Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability MORE has put criticism of Trump’s response to the pandemic at the center of his presidential bid. Trump is currently trailing Biden in national and swing state polling, with roughly two weeks remaining before Election Day.
Trump, who himself was diagnosed with the coronavirus in early October, has painted a rosy picture of his administration’s response while mostly acting as if it is in the rearview mirror. He has said repeatedly that the U.S. is “rounding the turn” on the virus and has continued to hold large campaign rallies with crowds of supporters and limited mask wearing, even in states that are seeing cases spike.
Fauci has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and is a member of the White House coronavirus task force. He has offered unvarnished and blunt public assessments about the coronavirus that have at times contradicted Trump’s own rosy pronouncements, and he has publicly criticized the president’s large campaign rallies during the pandemic.
Jonathan Easley contributed.