National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he was “taken out of context” in a new Trump campaign ad that features his comments “without my permission.”
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates,” Fauci said in a statement to NBC News. “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.”
That ad, titled “Carefully,” was released Saturday and promotes the president’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It followed his discharge from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he was stricken with the virus. In the ad, a clip of Fauci plays in which the infectious disease expert says he “can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”
That comment, however, came from a March interview Fauci conducted with Fox News in which the expert is speaking about the whole of government response, not specifically Trump’s efforts.
“We’re talking about all hands on deck,” Fauci said. “I, as one of many people on a team, I’m not the only person. Since the beginning, that we even recognized what this was, I have been devoting almost full time on this. I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. It’s every single day. So, I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more.”
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told NBC News that they will continue to run the ad despite Fauci’s objections.
“These are Dr. Fauci’s own words,” he said. “The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth.”
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Fauci and the White House have been at odds since the earlier months of the pandemic. Trump eventually sidelined him in favor of other advisers such as Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who is not an expert in infectious disease and has more aggressively promoted re-opening sectors of the economy.
As the president recovers from his Covid-19 infection, Fauci last week called the Rose Garden ceremony announcing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court a “superspreader event,” as multiple attendees have since tested positive for the virus.
In the days surrounding Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, 23 individuals close to him and three Republican senators have tested positive for the virus.
“Well, I think the data speaks for themselves. We had a superspreader event in the White House and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks,” he told CBS News Radio. “So the data speak for themselves.”
As Trump downplayed the virus last week as comparable to the flu, Fauci told NBC News the virus “is much different from influenza.”
Across the country, coronavirus cases are currently on the rise while the death toll has topped 215,000, according to an NBC News tracker.