Oct 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Republican senators defend Fauci as Trump escalates attacks

Picture of Anthony Fauci speaking in a press conference in front of Donald Trump and Mike Pence

Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Several Republican senators defended Anthony Fauci after a string of attacks in recent days from President Trump, who has called the government's top infectious-disease expert "a disaster" and claimed without evidence that he's a Democrat.

Why it matters: As polls indicate warning signs for both Trump and down-ballot Republicans, more GOP leaders are urging the president to stop downplaying the pandemic and listen to advice from public health experts. Fauci is one of the most trusted voices in the country on coronavirus issues.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate Republican whip, said to CNN about his advice for Trump: "Stay away from personal attacks. Quit attacking the media. Quit attacking Fauci and focus on issues. ... He's got to stay disciplined to do it, and I think that's how you're going to win over the middle people."
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tweeted: "Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. ... If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has frequently clashed with Trump, said, "Dr. Fauci is an esteemed professional with extraordinary expertise and capability, and I have full confidence in his leadership and capacity.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has remained close to Trump through his re-election bid, said, "I think in terms of Dr. Fauci, I trust his judgment."
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), when asked if he agreed with Trump's comments, said, "I got a lot of confidence in Dr. Fauci."

The big picture: Several Republican senators have come out and criticized the president's actions and comments as the election nears, fearing his unpopularity could cost them the White House, Senate and House.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gave one of the sharpest criticisms of the president of any Republican last week, calling Trump a "TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual" and saying he has "flirted with white supremacists."
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on Sunday he's disagreed with President Trump on trade agreements with China, budget deficits, COVID-19 stimulus aid, but has always brought up his concerns privately.

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