Topline: A Science magazine interview with Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the scientific voice of reason within President Trump’s coronavirus task force, revealed how the doctor manages to disagree with Trump while providing facts and reassurance about the pandemic to the American public.
Here are six key takeaways:
- On Trump’s coronavirus speeches, which he “ad-libs”: “I don’t disagree in the substance” of what Trump says, Fauci told Science, but added, “It is expressed in a way that I would not express it.”
- When Trump makes a comment that doesn’t align with facts: “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci said, and that during preparations for the next briefing, advisors “will say, by the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that.”
- On social distancing at White House press conferences: Fauci acknowledged that the task force stands too close together behind the podium, and said “I keep saying, is there any way we can get a virtual press conference. Thus far, no…I’m going to keep pushing.”
- When asked if he would refer to coronavirus using Trump’s preferred term, “Chinese virus,” which critics say is racist and xenophobic: “No,” was Fauci’s one-word answer.
- On the art of disagreeing with Trump: “He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”
- When asked how he’s holding up: “I’m not, to my knowledge, coronavirus infected. To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired,” Fauci said, laughing.
Crucial quote: “No comment,” was Fauci’s response to a question about whether he was criticized for the now-viral moment in which he covered his face with his hand after Trump made a reference to the “Deep State Department” during a press briefing.
Key background: Fauci, 79, has been a key player in the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, Fauci has served under six presidents and led previous federal efforts to battle SARS, HIV, Ebola, swine flu and MERS. The Washington Post reported that Fauci, when asked what keeps him awake at night, would always answer “A respiratory-borne illness that’s easily spread from person to person that has both a high degree of morbidity and mortality”—a statement that applies to the coronavirus.
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