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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s lead immunologist, complained to “60 Minutes” in an interview aired Sunday that the White House was limiting his media appearances.
In addition, Fauci, who’s been head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, also said he wasn’t surprised that President Donald Trump contracted COVID-19, while also ripping the Trump campaign for featuring him in an ad where he praised the administration’s early response to the pandemic.
Fauci spoke with Dr. Jon LaPook, the Chief Medical Correspondent for CBS News, who asked him to talk about his experiences with the president, the Trump administration, and his time on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence.
The career functionary said that, as the virus spread across the country, he continually pressed for people to take the disease more seriously, which he said often put him at odds with President Trump who, he said, sought a more positive message for Americans as the election approached.
At one point, LaPook asked Fauci directly if his media appearances have been limited by the administration.
“You know, I think you’d have to be honest and say yes,” Fauci responded. “I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.
“One of the most trusted voices in America, and yet, you’re not there, you’re not allowed to talk with us,” LaPook said. “So, can you understand the frustration that maybe there’s been a restriction on the flow of information and on the transparency –“
“You know,” Fauci interjected, “I think there has been a restriction, Jon, but– but it doesn’t, it– it– it isn’t consistent.”
LaPook then turned to the president’s COVID-19 illness, asking Fauci if he was surprised that Trump came down with it.
“Absolutely not,” Fauci said, going on to discuss how he reacted to seeing the September 26 Rose Garden announcement by the president that he was nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Most attendees at that event were not masked and were not socially distanced, Fauci noted; shortly afterward, both the president and first lady Melania Trump, along with several White House officials and GOP senators, tested positive.
“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,” said Fauci, covering his face to show alarm.
“When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that’s gotta be a problem.’ And then, sure enough, it turned out to be a super-spreader event,” he added.
Fauci also discussed his reaction to seeing himself appear in a Trump campaign ad, taken from a March 22 interview the immunologist did with Fox News host Mark Levin, in which he has earlier described as having been taken “out of context.”
During the interview Fauci said, “We’ve never had a threat like this. The coordinated response has been…There are a number of adjectives to describe it — impressive, I think is one of them. We’re talking about all hands on deck,” in response to Levin’s direct question about the administration’s response to the virus up to that point.
He added: “I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more.”
That’s the portion of the interview the Trump campaign used.
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” Fauci said in a statement earlier this month. “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.”
In response, the president’s campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, said, “These are Dr. Fauci’s own words.”
Levin also pushed back in a short Twitter thread, saying the characterization of the ad as “misleading is a flat out lie.”
1. The interview with Dr. Fauci mentioned everywhere the last few days occurred on March 22nd. I did the interview on Life, Liberty & Levin. And Dr. Fauci was full of praise for President Trump, his task force, his administration, etc.
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) October 12, 2020
3. And, by the way, if newsrooms are going to use the interview, at least have the integrity to mention where you got it from.
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) October 12, 2020
During his 60 Minutes interview, Fauci repeated again that he was angered by the ad and taken out of context after LaPook played a clip of it.
“I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate,” said Fauci. “And here I am, they’re sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad, which I thought was outrageous.
“I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the grueling work of the task force that, ‘God, we were knocking ourselves out, seven days a week. I don’t think we could have possibly have done any more than that,’” he added, claiming again he was taken out of context.
In March, Fauci told LaPook unequivocally that Americans “should not be walking around with masks.”
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