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Dr. Anthony Fauci quickly shot down a loaded question at the White House coronavirus press briefing about whether he was clarifying his comments “voluntarily.”
The government’s top infectious disease expert took issue with the implication of the question after he spent a few moments explaining comments he had made over the weekend that seemed to assert President Trump had not followed advice to shut the country down earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Relevant portion begins at 1:31 mark]
(Source: Fox News)
Fauci claimed he was just answering a “hypothetical question” when he responded during a CNN interview Sunday that “obviously” more American lives could have been saved if mitigation efforts against the coronavirus outbreak had been implemented by the administration sooner.
“But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. But you’re right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
But during Monday’s news briefing, Fauci sought to clarify his remarks, saying “hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty.”
“That was taken as a way that may be somehow something was at fault here. So let me tell you from my experience, and I can only speak for my own experience is that we have been talking before any meetings that we had about the pros and the cons, the effectiveness or not of strong mitigations,” he told reporters, going on to recount a timeline.
“So I can only tell you what I know and what my recommendations were, but clearly, as happens all the time, there were interpretations of that response to a hypothetical question that I just thought it would be very nice for me to clarify because they didn’t have the chance to clarify,” Fauci added, telling another reporter that he did not remember a date but “the first and only time that I went in and said we should do mitigation strongly, the response was yes, we’ll do it.”
When he was asked about his comment on CNN that there was “pushback” on recommendations to shut things down to slow the coronavirus spread, Fauci said “that was the wrong choice of words.”
Before he left the podium, CBS News reporter Paula Reid openly asked if he had just clarified his comments “voluntarily,” stopping Fauci in his tracks as he shot back his reply.
“Everything I do is voluntarily,” he said. “Please. Don’t even imply that.”
While the health expert had defended his weekend comments, he has not addressed his own contradictory claims about the seriousness of the pandemic. Besides his remarks on CNN, Fauci claimed in an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton on Sunday that Trump was warned in “the middle to end of January” that “we were in real trouble” from the coronavirus.
But Fauci himself noted in March that healthy Americans should feel safe to take cruises and, on February 29, Fauci was asserting on the “Today” show that there was “no need” to change daily activities. In fact, according to Fauci, Americans should continue to go to the gym, to see movies and shop in malls.
During Monday’s press briefing, Trump addressed a tweet that raised eyebrows and led to speculation about whether there is a growing tension between him and Fauci and whether he planned to fire him, as the hashtag #FireFauci was included in his retweet.
(Source: Fox News)
Fauci addressed the tweet himself during an interview with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully on Monday, dismissing it and saying it “doesn’t bother me.”
“This is the world we live in,” Fauci said, laughing. “You’re going to see things like that all the time… That’s the world we live in, I accept it, it doesn’t bother me.
“Can the president fire you?” Scully asked.
“Well, it depends on what you mean by firing.” Fauci replied.
“I’m on the task force serving at his pleasure. He can remove me from the task force. I was with him for quite a while today, he has no intention of doing that,” he added. “If he does… there’s a lot of competent people around. I’m sure they can get somebody to do that.”
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