Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious diseases experts and a prominent voice throughout the coronavirus pandemic, recently described his work under the Trump administration as being “painful,” particularly when the former president lied to the public about the crisis.
In an interview with CNN journalist Chris Wallace this week, Fauci — who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden — recalled how former President Donald Trump’s inner circle came after him when he countered Trump’s misinformation back in March of 2020.
At one point, Wallace asked how difficult it was for Fauci to have to “[deal] with and shar[e] a podium with a president who … was dispensing misinformation?”
“It was very painful,” Fauci said. “And that’s the reason why I had to do something that I know alienated a lot of the Trump people, in fact, maybe all of the Trump people. But I had to … go to the podium and say, ‘I’m sorry, I disagree with you.’”
Early on in the pandemic, Fauci disagreed with Trump’s assertions that the crisis would be short-lived, or that drugs like the anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine could treat coronavirus — and as a result, Fauci said, Trump’s staff “declared war” on him.
“They did sort of opposition research on me and sent out information that I didn’t know what I was talking about. So, my position in the White House became extremely uncomfortable and, in fact, untenable, because I kept on telling the truth,” Fauci said.
And I’m sorry, I can’t agree when you say hydroxychloroquine works. I can’t agree when you say something else works. I can’t agree when you say it’s going to go away tomorrow and disappear like magic. I have to get out the next evening and tell the public ‘No, I’m sorry, I disagree.’
As a result of Fauci’s continued insistence that more study was needed surrounding hydroxychloroquine and other treatment options that Trump was promoting, he got into a number of heated confrontations with the former president’s loyalists.
In one instance, Trump loyalists in the White House — including Trump’s then-top trade adviser Peter Navarro — confronted Fauci during a behind-the-scenes meeting in April, touting documents that they said proved that hydroxychloroquine was good for treating COVID-19. Fauci disagreed with those claims, which set Navarro off, sources familiar with that conversation said at the time.
The following day, Trump’s impatience with Fauci was evident when he interrupted a question directed toward the infectious diseases expert during a news briefing.
“He’s answered that question 15 times,” Trump said, regarding Fauci’s opinion on hydroxychloroquine.
Later that year, Navarro and other Trump loyalists attempted to wage a smear campaign against Fauci, publicly disparaging him for stating medical facts about the pandemic that contradicted Trump’s statements.
Ultimately, the study on hydroxychloroquine that Navarro and other conservatives were pushing at the time was discredited, and studies performed thereafter consistently showed that the drug was ineffective at treating people who had the virus.
Still, far right Trump loyalists continue to believe false assertions about Fauci; in his interview with Wallace, Fauci recognized that he is viewed negatively by a small but vocal portion of the U.S. populace.
“I’m the total target of the very far right,” he said.