- President Donald Trump blasted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, calling him a "disaster" in a campaign phone call, according to CNN.
- "If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths," Trump said. "People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone."
- As part of the White House coronavirus task force, Fauci has been one of the most visible faces for Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
- In a September ABC News/Ipsos poll, only 35% of Americans approved of how Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic, with 67% of respondents saying that he acted too slowly to combat the disease.
- Later on Monday, Trump once again lashed out at Fauci, this time mocking him for having a "bad arm" and throwing "perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!"
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President Donald Trump on Monday blasted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, calling him a "disaster" in a campaign phone call, according to CNN.
Trump, who has sought to downplay the severity of the coronavirus since its spread throughout the US, dismissed Fauci's health recommendations, claiming that more people would have died had he listened to the longtime health official.
"Fauci is a disaster," Trump said on the call, which CNN got access to via an unnamed source. "If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths … People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots."
Trump later revised the figure to 700,000 or 800,000 deaths, before expressing indifference to whether his statements would reach the press.
"If there's a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less," he added.
Trump then described Fauci as a "nice guy" and a "wonderful sage" who has "been here for 500 years."
Fauci has been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
Until recent weeks, Trump's criticisms of Fauci had been relatively muted. While Trump has struggled for months with unfavorable opinions about his handling of the coronavirus, Fauci has remained one of the most trusted sources for health information since the beginning of the pandemic.
In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from June, 50% of respondents viewed Fauci favorably and only 11% had a negative view. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in September showed that 68% of Americans had a great deal or fair amount of trust in Fauci when it came to the updates about the coronavirus.
Fauci's numbers have remained strong despite his diminished presence within the president's orbit.
In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday, Fauci said that he was "absolutely not" surprised that Trump caught the coronavirus.
"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," he said. "When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that's gotta be a problem.'"
"And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event," Fauci continued, referring to Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination ceremony at the White House on September 26.
Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump contracted the coronavirus on October 2. Later that day, he was transported to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he received treatment and was released on October 5.
The president has routinely dismissed the threat of COVID-19, urging state leaders to reopen businesses, claiming that the US is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic and the virus is going to "disappear."
But Fauci offered a different perspective, telling CBS: "When you have a million deaths and over 30 million infections globally, you can not say that we're on the road to essentially getting out of this. So quite frankly, I don't know where we are. It's impossible to say."
In the interview, Fauci also said that his media appearances haven't always been in his control.
"During this pandemic, has the White House been controlling when you can speak with the media?" Dr. Jon LaPook asked.
"You know, I think you'd have to be honest and say yes. I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me," Fauci replied.
Trump took a swing at Fauci again on Monday afternoon, this time on Twitter.
"Dr. Tony Fauci says we don't allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions," the president wrote, accusing Fauci of saying "no masks & let China in."
Trump then went on to mock Fauci's ceremonial first pitch of the 2020 Major League Baseball season ahead of the first game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees in July.
"Bad arm," Trump wrote, mocking Fauci for throwing "perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!"
This article has been updated.
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