Fauci said 'macho guy' Trump saw masks as a 'sign of weakness' and many Americans followed his lead

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  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said former President Donald Trump likely didn’t routinely wear a mask because he thought it diminished his “manhood.”
  • “He’s a pretty macho guy,” Fauci said of Trump in an interview with the Atlantic. 
  • Fauci said it’s “unfortunate” Trump wasn’t in the habit of wearing a mask because many Americans copied him. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci in a new interview with the Atlantic said that former President Donald Trump’s views on masculinity were likely behind his reluctance to wear a mask in public and set an example for the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, was asked why Trump wouldn’t “routinely wear a mask.”

“It’s really tough to get into his head, but I think what was going on with him is he was not interested in the outbreak,” Fauci said. “The outbreak to him was an inconvenient truth that he didn’t accept as a truth. It’s something that got in the way of what he really wanted to do.”

“He’s a pretty macho guy,” Fauci, who’s now President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, went on to say of Trump. “It’s almost like it diminishes one’s manhood to wear a mask. To him, a mask was a sign of weakness. The unfortunate aspect of this is that a lot of people in the country took that on as a mantra. That’s the problem.”

As president, Trump habitually disregarded public health recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as wearing a mask or face-covering while in public.

He also frequently contradicted top experts like Fauci with misleading or inaccurate comments on the virus, and diminished the impact of the pandemic on the US. The former president in a recorded interview with veteran journalist Bob Woodward said that he deliberately downplayed the threat of COVID-19 to the public because he wanted to avoid inducing “panic.” 

Trump held several rallies during the pandemic during which many of his supporters could be seen not wearing masks.

Supporters of President Donald Trump wait in line to attend a campaign rally with the president at Rochester International Airport October 30, 2020 in Rochester, Minnesota.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During a presidential debate in September, Trump mocked Biden for consistently wearing a mask. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Trump said of the future president. “He could be speaking 200 feet away … and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.” Two days later, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized because of it.  

On Trump’s last full day in office, the US surpassed 400,000 reported COVID-19 deaths.

Asked if people died as a result of the example Trump set, Fauci told the Atlantic, “I don’t want to say that. The reason I don’t is that someone will take it out of context and say, ‘Fauci said that the president killed people.’ I don’t want to go there.”

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