Mar 22, 2020 - Health

Fauci on contradicting Trump: "I just want to get the facts out"

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the New York Times that he tries to be diplomatic when forced to contradict President Trump on the facts of the coronavirus outbreak.

What he's saying: “I’ve been telling the president things he doesn’t want to hear. I have publicly had to say something different with what he states. It’s a risky business. But that’s my style. ... I say it the way it is, and if he’s gonna get pissed off, he’s gonna get pissed off. Thankfully, he is not. Interestingly.”

  • “I don’t want to embarrass him. I don’t want to act like a tough guy, like I stood up to the president. I just want to get the facts out. And instead of saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ all you need to do is continually talk about what the data are and what the evidence is."
  • “And he gets that. He’s a smart guy. He’s not a dummy. So he doesn’t take it — certainly up to now — he doesn’t take it in a way that I’m confronting him in any way. He takes it in a good way.”

Why it matters: As the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, Fauci has been a guiding force and steady hand in shaping the White House's response to the coronavirus pandemic. His nonpolitical, realist outlook has at times stood in stark contrast with the dismissive tone and relentless optimism of the president.

  • On Friday, Fauci was forced to step in at a White House press briefing when Trump touted the promise of an anti-malaria drug that has not yet been approved by the FDA for treating the coronavirus — something he continues to do on Twitter.
  • "I'm not totally sure what the president was referring to," Fauci told reporters. "But I believe he was referring to a report that used both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin together to have some possibility of being an effect. Many of the things out there are what I have called 'anecdotal reports.'"

The bottom line: Fauci told the Times that despite the contradictions, Trump now "absolutely" understands the threat of the coronavirus.

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