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The country’s lead immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, offered early praise of President Donald Trump’s responses to the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic, calling it “impressive” and saying at the time there was no more that could be done.
He has also come to Trump’s defense against new allegations the president was purposefully deceiving the American people by downplaying the severity of the pandemic (more on that later).
In a March 10 interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in response to a question about whether the administration was doing all it could to deal with the virus up to that point: “You know, I believe so.”
“Always when you have an outbreak, there’s a little bit of the ‘fog of war’ associated with that,” Fauci continued. “You’re trying to do the right thing, you’re trying to keep up with an evolving situation. But I think in the context of what we’re dealing with, I think everybody’s doing really well.”
Dr. Fauci said in March that the Trump Administration was doing everything possible to combat the coronavirus. He said the response was "impressive" and that he couldn't imagine "anybody could be doing more." pic.twitter.com/aZsl1V06kJ
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) September 10, 2020
Later that month, during a March 22 interview with Fox News host and talk radio giant Mark Levin, Fauci again offered high praise for the administration’s actions.
“The coordinated response has been…there are a number of adjectives to describe it — impressive, I think, is one of them. I mean, we’re talking about all hands on deck,” Fauci said.
“So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more,” he added.
The flashback comes as President Trump faced new criticisms over his COVID-19 responses on Wednesday following the targeted release of portions of a new book by Washington Post correspondent Bob Woodward, in which Trump told him he downplayed the “deadly” seriousness of the virus because he did not want to create a public panic.
The frank admission from a president who has been credited with being extremely transparent throughout the pandemic, set off a new firestorm of outrage from his critics who went on to claim that he intentionally misled the country, which led to a tempered his administration’s coronavirus response.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward, according to a recording of the conversation. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
He made that statement just days after he had declared a national emergency over the virus and about 45 days after he ordered travel from China halted, for which he was immediately criticized as being “xenophobic” by CNN contributor and former State Department official Shahed Amanullah and, later, by the now-Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.
The administration pushed back hard on the allegations.
“When you are facing insurmountable challenges, it is important to express confidence, it is important to express calm,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a fiery press conference.
“He makes clear that he doesn’t want to see chaos, by the way, which is the second part of the quote which you failed to read,” she added, addressing a reporter who read a portion of the president’s quote to Woodward.
“The president just days after having this discussion with Bob Woodward, said this from this podium, on March 30, he said, ‘I do want them to stay calm, we are doing a great job, if you look at the individual statements they are all true, stay calm, it will go away but it’s important to stay calm,’” she said. “So this president does what leaders do — good leaders — it’s stay calm and resolute at a time when you face an insurmountable challenge.”
Trump also defended himself during an interview with Hannity Wednesday evening.
“What I wanna show is a calmness. I’m the leader of the country. I can’t be jumping up and down and scaring people. I don’t wanna scare people. I want people not to panic, and that’s exactly what I did,” he said.
“And if you look at the representatives of Joe Biden, you see they said this won’t be a problem. He didn’t think it was going to be a problem until months later. He was way late. Pelosi was way, way late, and I was at the end of January far ahead of everybody because I did something nobody wanted me to do.”
For his part, Fauci also defended the president Wednesday, saying that at no time did he believe Trump was misinforming the public.
One problem with this:
— Kayleigh McEnany 45 Archived (@PressSec45) September 10, 2020
Asked by Fox News’ John Roberts if he thought Trump was intentionally downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic behind the scenes, Fauci said, “No, No I didn’t. I didn’t get any sense that he was distorting anything.”
QUESTION: Did you get any sense that President Trump was downplaying the coronavirus.
"No, no, I didn’t. I didn’t get any sense that he was distorting anything." – Dr. Anthony Fauci pic.twitter.com/tkky8f7RWz
— Francis Brennan (@FrancisBrennan) September 9, 2020
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