President Donald Trump on Monday said the government’s top pandemic fighter, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is a “disaster” — and possibly an “idiot” — as he claimed that Americans are “tired of” Covid-19, even as the number of coronavirus cases continued spiking in much of the United States.
“People are tired of Covid,” Trump said in a call with the staff of his reelection campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong,” Trump said on the call.
Trump also claimed that “every time [Fauci] goes on television there’s always a bomb,” an apparent reference to Fauci’s media appearances, which included him telling CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday night that he was “absolutely not” surprised that Trump himself caught the coronavirus.
But Trump also offered an explanation for why he has not fired Fauci as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, despite his unhappiness with him.
“There’s a bigger bomb if you fire him,” Trump said. “This guy’s a disaster.”
The president at another point called Fauci a “nice” man, but in a backhanded way.
“He’s been here for 500 years,” Trump said of Fauci, who is 79 years old.
Fauci is a civil servant who, under the law, cannot be directly fired by the president. And Fauci could appeal any dismissal ordered by the president through the political appointees who oversee him.
During a campaign event Sunday, Trump made fun of Biden by imitating him saying he would “listen to the scientists” about the pandemic.
“If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression,” Trump then said at the rally in Carson City, Nevada. “We’re like a rocket ship.”
Trump also criticized Democratic governors of several states for enacting measures designed to thwart a second wave of coronavirus cases.
“Get the places open, let’s go,” Trump said.
Even as he spoke, daily new cases in the United States continued rising in more than half of the states. As of Monday, more than 8.1 million Covid-19 cases have been reported in the U.S. since 2020 began, with at least 219,765 deaths linked to the virus.
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates fired back at Trump’s claim that the country would be worse off economically if Trump had listened to scientists, tweeting, “This is tellingly out of touch and the polar opposite of reality.”
“Trump crashed the strong economy he inherited from the Obama-Biden Administration by lying about and attacking the science, and layoffs are rising,” Bates tweeted. “Meanwhile, Joe Biden would create millions more jobs than Trump.”
Also Sunday, the social media platform Twitter removed a tweet by the White House pandemic advisor Scott Atlas, who had written “Masks work? NO.”
Twitter said that Atlas — who unlike Fauci seems favored by Trump — violated the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy, which bars “sharing false or misleading content which could lead to harm.”
Trump, first lady Melania Trump, their son Barron, and more than two dozen people linked to the White House, the president’s campaign and to presidential events have been diagnosed this month with Covid-19.
During his “60 Minutes” interview, Fauci said he was not surprised that Trump had gotten ill, because of the lack of sufficient precautions against the virus at a White House gathering Sept. 26 to watch Trump formally announce federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said.
“When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s got to be a problem,” Fauci said.
“And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”
Fauci last week took a shot at Trump’s campaign after it featured him in a recent ad saying of Trump in an interview about the coronavirus response, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”
That Fauci interview was from March, the month the virus began spreading in earnest in the U.S.
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” Fauci told CNN in a statement.
“The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.”