Dr. Fauci: The Trump Campaign Is ‘In Effect, Harassing Me’
The nation's leading expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, urged the Trump campaign not to use him in future campaign ads, and said Monday that it would be "outrageous" and "terrible" if he were featured in another commercial and "could come back" backfires “On Team Trump.
When asked by The Daily Beast whether his comments were a thinly veiled threat to leave his post if he landed on a new campaign spot, Fauci said, "No way."
"Not in my wildest damn dreams," he said, "have I ever thought about quitting."
From there, Fauci went on to explain what he meant by "misfire".
"By doing this against my will, you are actually harassing me," said Fauci. "Since campaign ads are about getting votes, harassing me could have the opposite effect of killing some voters."
Fauci's comments underscore the mounting tension that has erupted between the White House and the President's COVID task force as elections dramatically end and COVID infections rise across the country.
Fauci, a member of the White House's coronavirus task force, prides itself on being apolitical. And he pushed back aggressively over the weekend when President Donald Trump's campaign featured him in a video ad, using remarks he'd taken out of context in the past.
"In my nearly five decades in the public service, I have never publicly supported a political candidate," Fauci told CNN on Sunday. "The comments attributed to me on the GOP campaign ad without my permission have been taken out of the context of a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal health officials."
In the ad, Fauci said, "I can't imagine anyone could do more," suggesting that he was referring to Trump and his response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the top doctor noted that in the early days of the crisis he was actually talking about the task force in general.
The president's campaign, meanwhile, returned that "these are Dr. Fauci's own words" and that he "praised the work of the Trump administration." Trump also defended the ad, reiterating that "these are actually Dr. Fauci's own words".
When Fauci appeared on CNN's The Lead on Monday, he was immediately put under pressure by anchor Jake Tapper over the growing controversy and whether the Trump campaign should take the ad off.
"You know, I think so," replied the doctor. "I find it really regrettable and really disappointing that they did that. It is so clear that I am not a political person and have not endorsed a candidate directly or indirectly. I found it really very disappointing to make a completely incoherent statement which is obviously a political campaign ad. "
Tapper, meanwhile, suggested that the Trump campaign was already planning to reinstate Fauci in another political commercial without his permission.
"What would you say if I told you that I heard the Trump campaign was preparing to run another ad with you?" Asked Tapper.
"You know, that would be terrible," sighed an emptied Fauci. “It would be outrageous if they did that. In fact, that could actually lead to them backfiring. "
"I hope you don't," continued the public health expert. "That would be kind of a game that we don't want to play. I hope they reconsider that they are actually thinking about doing this. I hope they reconsider and don't."
The Trump campaign has not returned a call for clarification on whether such an ad is in the works.
Tapper continued to ask Fauci about the president's insistence to resume his public rallies after being hospitalized for COVID-19, wondering aloud how certain they can be that the Trump campaign doesn't require face masks and social distancing.
"Put aside any questions about the political implications of the rally and put them aside and look at them from a public health context only," he said. "We know this creates problems when you do this. We have seen that in gathering situations you have many people without a mask."
"The data speaks for itself," continued Fauci. "It happens. And now it's even worse to do that. When you look at what's going on in the US, it's really very problematic."
- With additional coverage by Sam Stein.
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