Fauci Speaks Out on Blowback He Got for Contradicting Trump: He Called and Told Me to ‘Be More Positive’

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak to reporters following a meeting of the coronavirus task force in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. The president today removed the independent chairman of a committee tasked with overseeing the roll out of the $2 trillion coronavirus bailout package. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been very open in the past few days about the difficulties he faced in the Trump administration.

He got more specific in a candid new interview with New York Times reporter Donald McNeil Jr..

Former President Donald Trump downplayed the pandemic early on — both publicly and privately (most significantly to Bob Woodward), and Fauci said, “I would try to express the gravity of the situation, and the response of the president was always leaning toward, ‘Well, it’s not that bad, right?’”

He was also concerned about the president getting bad information from others spewing non-scientific ideas:

[I]t was clear that he was getting input from people who were calling him up, I don’t know who, people he knew from business, saying, “Hey, I heard about this drug, isn’t it great?” or, “Boy, this convalescent plasma is really phenomenal.” And I would try to, you know, calmly explain that you find out if something works by doing an appropriate clinical trial; you get the information, you give it a peer review. And he’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this stuff really works.”

He would take just as seriously their opinion — based on no data, just anecdote — that something might really be important. It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative-medicine-type approaches. It was always, “A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.” That’s when my anxiety started to escalate.

Fauci said what he decided to do was not to “proactively go out and volunteer my contradiction” of Trump, but that if he was called on to speak, he would say, “No, I’m sorry, I do not think that is the case.”

Others in the White House “got really surprised, if not offended,” he would contradict Trump to his face in private discussions, and of course there were those moments when Peter Navarro and Scott Atlas felt emboldened to publicly attack him.

Fauci detailed one particular spat with Navarro where the former White House trade adviser was continuing to push hydroxychloroquine, and said that the inclusion of Atlas was particularly difficult for Dr. Deborah Birx because she “had to live with this person in the White House every day.”

Even Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, apparently called up Fauci at least once “expressing concern that I was going out of my way to contradict the president.”

And, of course, the president himself, as Fauci tells it, called him to grumble a bit and tell him to “be more positive.”

You can read the full interview here.

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