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President Donald Trump took a shot at Dr. Anthony Fauci in a tweet Tuesday, a day after the country’s lead immunologist blasted his reelection campaign for using his COVID response observations in an ad.
The president was responding to a CNN story containing details surrounding comments Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made during an interview with Mark Levin on Fox News in March, in which he lauded the Trump administration for its robust response to the pandemic.
“Actually, Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications. ‘No problem, no masks’. WHO no longer likes Lockdowns – just came out against. Trump was right. We saved 2,000,000 USA lives!!!” he wrote, a reference to Fauci’s errant first pitch ahead of a Washington Nationals baseball game in July.
The president also referenced a recent statement by a leading World Health Organization official who said the health agency feels as though sustained economic and societal lockdowns due to the pandemic have been a mistake.
In his interview with Levin, Fauci said, “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. … So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more.”
Fauci’s “can’t imagine” comment was incorporated into an ad by the Trump campaign, which is trying to push back on allegations from Democratic rival Joe Biden that the president’s pandemic response was inadequate.
During the interview, portions of which Levin replayed on his nationally syndicated talk radio program Monday, Fauci was clear that the Trump administration was doing everything possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to meet demands for ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other items as it spooled up its response early on.
But the immunologist was taken aback by the inclusion of his comments in a Trump campaign ad.
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” Fauci said in a statement. “The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.”
That said, the Trump campaign pushed back, noting that Fauci’s comments are a matter of public record.
“These are Dr. Fauci’s own words,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Monday.
“The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration,” Murtaugh noted further. “The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth. As Dr. Fauci recently testified in the Senate, President Trump took the virus seriously from the beginning, acted quickly, and saved lives.”
“They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words. We have done a “phenomenal” job, according to certain governors. Many people agree…And now come the Vaccines & Cures, long ahead of projections!” Trump added in a tweet.
Nevertheless, Fauci called on the Trump campaign to take down the ad in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“I think it’s really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that,” Fauci said. “It’s so clear that I’m not a political person, and I have never either directly or indirectly endorsed a political candidate. And to take a completely out of context statement, and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought was really very disappointing.”
He also intimated that if the Trump campaign used him in another ad, he might pursue legal action.
“That would be terrible. That would be outrageous if they do that,” Fauci added. “In fact, that might actually come to backfire on them. I hope they don’t do that. That would be kind of playing a game that we don’t want to play. I hope they reconsider that, if in fact they are indeed considering doing that. I hope they reconsider and not do that.”
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