President Donald Trump has launched a scathing attack on the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, branding him “a disaster”.
Speaking to campaign staff on a conference call, Trump said he believes he’s going to win, allowing that he didn’t have that same sense of confidence two weeks ago when he was hospitalised with Covid-19.
One week since returning to the campaign trail, where his handling of the pandemic is a central issue to voters, Trump blasted his government’s own scientists for their criticism of his performance.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said of the government’s top infectious disease expert.
In the audio of the phone call, obtained by CNN, Trump said Fauci was a “nice guy” who had “been here for 500 years”.
“He’s a disaster, if I had listened to him we’d have 500,000 deaths.”
Multiple sources report journalists were permitted to join the call with Trump and his campaign staff.
Not only is Fauci part of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, he has also been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
The US continues to lead the world in Covid infections, with over eight million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data, while over 220,000 people have died from the disease.
Trump also said people were “tired” of Covid-19 and spoke of how people were still coming to his rallies despite the pandemic.
There has been bipartisan condemnation of Trump’s handing of Covid-19 and rejection of scientific advice amid the pandemic, meanwhile, Fauci is both respected and popular on both sides of politics.
“Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster.”
Trump’s comments drew a defence of the scientist from Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who praised Fauci as one of the nation’s “most distinguished public servants.”
“If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat,” Alexander said.
Biden responds to Trump’s criticism of Fauci
Joe Biden was off the trail on Monday, but his campaign released a statement about Trump’s comments on Fauci.
“Trump is mocking Biden for listening to science. Science. The best tool we have to keep Americans safe, while Trump’s reckless and negligent leadership threatens to put more lives at risk,” the statement said.
Fauci recently appeared on 60 Minutes, where he spoke about Trump’s Covid diagnosis, which did not surprise him and how his words were taken out of context for a campaign ad.
“I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more,” Dr Fauci is heard saying in the ad, which is still playing in battleground states, according to 60 Minutes.
“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,” Dr Fauci told 60 Minutes.
“Which I thought was outrageous. I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the gruelling work of the task force.”
Trump did see Fauci’s interview as he tweeted about it, calling for the doctor to “make better decisions”.
“All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said ‘no masks & let China in’,” Trump tweeted.
“Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals’ Mask for two reasons. Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing.
“Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!”
‘What a crowd’: large turn out for Trump’s Arizona rally
The phone call where Trump lashed out at Fauci happened before Trump attended campaign rallies in Arizona and then headed to the White House.
On Monday afternoon, local time, Trump shared an astonishing video of the crowd waiting for him in Prescott, Arizona, as his plane was descending.
“Just arriving in Prescott, what a crowd! I love Arizona!!” The president tweeted.
Videos of Trump speaking at the outdoor rally shows little social distancing in the crowd in Arizona.
During the rally, Trump continued to make fun of Biden and Fauci.
“You know Biden wants to lock it down, he [Biden] wants to listen to Dr Fauci,” Trump said as the crowd boos.
Polls that show Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states, just two weeks out from election day.
Back on the trail after his COVID-19 infection, Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that revived his candidacy four years ago and plunging into an aggressive travel schedule despite the pandemic.
But his lack of a consistent message, newly surging virus cases and his attacks on experts like Fauci could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base.
With Associated Press
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