Mar 23, 2020 - Health

Fauci: "I can't jump in front of the microphone" during coronavirus briefings

Anthony Fauci speaks
Anthony Fauci. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Science magazine that he "can't jump in front of the microphone" if President Trump says something incorrect during the White House's coronavirus briefings.

Behind the scenes: "The next time they sit down with him and talk about what he’s going to say, they will say, by the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don't say that," Fauci said.

What he's saying: Fauci told Science that, though President Trump and he have disagreed "on some things," the president does listen to him. "He goes his own way. He has his own style," Fauci added. "But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say."

  • "I don't disagree in the substance. It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject."
  • "I keep saying, is there any way we can get a virtual press conference. Thus far, no. But when you're dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things 1,2,3,4 times, and then it happens. So I'm going to keep pushing."
  • "We're in the task force. We sit down for an hour and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda. And then we proceed from there to an anteroom right in front of the Oval Office to talk about what are going to be the messages, what are the kind of things we're going to want to emphasize? Then we go in to see the president, we present [our consensus] to him and somebody writes a speech. Then he gets up and ad libs on his speech. And then we're up there to try and answer questions."

Why it matters: Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, has become the scientific voice of reason at Trump's now daily coronavirus press briefings, usually stepping in to clarify, or even refute, some of Trump's statements.

Go deeper: ... "You don't want to go to war with a president": Top NIH doctor talks coronavirus response

Go deeper