President Donald Trump shared a tweet on Sunday that suggested he might be thinking about removing Anthony Fauci from the coronavirus task force, or possibly from his position within the National Institutes of Health, over his comments from this past weekend in which the doctor stated that an earlier implementation of mitigation efforts could have saved lives.
The tweet that the president shared came from a former candidate for Congress who had once sought the seat held by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The tweet itself made some questionable assumptions of Fauci’s past statements.
On Sunday, Fauci, in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, stated that, had the process for attempting to prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. started sooner, such efforts could have resulted in a smaller number of Americans dying.
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“Obviously you can logically say if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier you could have saved lives,” Fauci said during the interview. “Obviously no one is going to deny that.”
Fauci did not directly fault the president in his comments. However, many on social media appeared to interpret it that way, including former congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine, who wrote a tweet saying, among other things, that Fauci should be fired.
“Fauci is now saying that had Trump listened to the medical experts earlier he could’ve saved more lives,” Lorraine wrote. “Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US public at large.”
“Time to #FireFauci…” Lorraine added.
Trump shared Lorraine’s tweet with his own comment which described the idea that his administration could have acted earlier to contain the spread of coronavirus as “fake news.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020
Trump didn’t call for Fauci’s ouster in his tweet like Lorraine did, but citing her tweet without directly contradicting it raises questions about where he stands on the matter.
However, Lorraine’s reasoning contains questionable characterizations of Fauci’s statements.
Lorraine hinted, for example, that Fauci was behaving just like Trump and others in his administration on February 29 — acting as if the virus posed no serious threat. In fact, Fauci was voicing some concern about the novel coronavirus at the time.
Four days earlier, on February 25, Fauci wasn’t yet advocating for social distancing measures, but he was telling the nation to ready itself for potential changes to daily life.
“You don’t need to do anything different today than you did yesterday, but the thing we need to do is to be understanding what we would have to do if we did see community spread here,” Fauci said at the time.
He also suggested, at that moment, that it was time to get prepared for the disease. “Right now it is under control, but that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down and think that it’s nothing to be concerned about,” he said.
On February 29, Fauci reiterated those comments during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. He stressed that there weren’t any actions Americans needed to take on that day, but that didn’t mean something couldn’t change in the immediate future.
“Right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day by day basis. Right now, the risk is low, but that could change … when you start to see community spread, this could change,” Fauci said.
To say that Fauci was stating coronavirus “posed no threat” to the country, as Lorraine did in her tweet, is a misleading characterization of what the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was actually telling the country at the end of February — a characterization that, it appears to some, the president may be considering as reason to fire Fauci.