Apr 13, 2020 - Health

Fauci clarifies comments about delay in Trump's coronavirus response

Speaking at the start of Monday's coronavirus press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified his response to a hypothetical question he was asked on CNN, where he said that there was "pushback" to his early recommendations within the Trump administration and that "obviously" earlier mitigation efforts would have saved more lives.

Why it matters: Fauci's comments on Sunday caused backlash among critics who believed that President Trump ignored public health experts. Fauci insisted on Monday that Trump has always accepted his recommendations and that his CNN comments were simply a hypothetical that was misconstrued.

  • Fauci also said that his use of "pushback" was a "wrong choice of words," and that it was more of a discussion among advisers with differing views.

What they're saying:

"The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president to actually have a "shutdown" in the sense of strong mitigation, we discussed it. Obviously there would be concerns by some, and in fact, that might have some negative consequences. Nonetheless, the president listened to the recommendation. And went to the mitigation.
The next, second time that I went with Dr. Birx into the president and said 15 days are not enough. We need to go 30 days. Obviously, there were people who had a problem with that because of the potential secondary effects. Nonetheless, at that time the president went with the health recommendations, and we extended it another 30 days. So I can only tell you what I know and what my recommendations were. But clearly as happens all the time, there were interpretations of that response to a hypothetical question that I just thought it would be very nice for me to clarify."
— Dr. Fauci

The big picture: On Sunday night, Trump retweeted a tweet about Fauci's comments that included the hashtag #FireFauci. The White House later put out a statement claiming that media speculation that Trump would fire Fauci is "ridiculous."

  • Fauci knocked down a question from a reporter asking whether he was clarifying his comments "voluntarily," adding: "Don't even imply that."
  • Trump later said that he was aware that the tweet he retweeted included the #FireFauci hashtag, but insisted that it was not an endorsement.
  • "I like him. I think he's terrific," Trump told reporters. "Not everyone's happy with Anthony. Not everybody is happy with everybody."
Go deeper