In his latest battle of truth or dare with Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Donald Trump called the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases an “idiot” and a “disaster” — and wasn’t afraid to stand by those insults. On a Monday call with campaign staff and members of the press — a call intended to discuss how Trump planned to cinch his win for a second term — the president instead unloaded his feelings about Dr. Fauci’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“People are tired of Covid,” Trump said. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong. [...] He’s been here for, like, 500 years. He’s like this wonderful sage telling us how — Fauci, if we listened to him, we’d have 700,000 [or] 800,000 deaths.” Although Trump spoke with literally no evidence to support this statement, he doubled down on himself, making it clear that he wasn’t afraid for his comments to circulate in his beloved Fake News Media. “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it. I couldn’t care less,” he said.
Trump’s renewed disdain for Dr. Fauci came one day after the physician did an interview on 60 Minutes. During the segment, Fauci not only discussed the White House’s pandemic response, but why he wasn’t surprised that Trump contracted COVID-19.
“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,” Dr. Fauci told correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, referring to Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination event (a.k.a. The Superspreader Party) in the White House Rose Garden. “When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that's gotta be a problem’.”
But this is just the latest in Trump’s now-storied battle with Fauci, which has been building since the beginning of 2020. In April, the president retweeted a call for Fauci’s firing, a move he walked back days later. The White House then blocked the physician from appearing in front of a House hearing about the country’s pandemic response back in May, calling his presence “counterproductive.” Trump also took to Twitter in August to discredit Fauci on why U.S. COVID-19 cases keep rising compared to European countries, saying the physician was “Wrong!” to suggest the U.S. needed to shut down more of the economy.
Despite Trump’s attacks, Fauci remains one of the most trusted public figures throughout the pandemic, with a June Quinnipiac University poll revealing that 65% of people find Dr. Fauci to be a trusted source of medical information, compared to Trump’s meager 30%.
With the election only two weeks away, it’s possible that Trump is attacking Dr. Fauci all of this to save face in the wake of his less-than-impressive polling numbers. Unfortunately, punching down never helped anyone — especially when it’s a trusted doctor who is trying to save lives as the president seemingly lets people die.