A lead member of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force criticized reporters on Tuesday for trying to create a conflict between him and the president.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Washington radio station WMAL “Mornings on the Mall” program that the questions and reporting were irritating.
“That is really unfortunate,” Fauci told hosts hosts Vince Coglianese and Mary Walter. “I would wish that would stop because we have a much bigger problem here than trying to point out differences. They’re really fundamentally at the core when you look at things, they are not differences.”
“The president has listened to what I’ve said and to the other people who are on the task force have said. When I’ve made recommendations, he has taken them. He has never countered, overwritten me. The idea of just pitting one against the other is not helpful. I wish that would stop and that we’d look ahead at the challenge we have to get over this thing.”
LISTEN: Dr Fauci tells WMAL radio in DC the attempt to sow division between him and the President "is unfortunate. I wish that would stop because we have a much bigger problem here than trying to point out differences. There really fundamentally at the core are not differences." pic.twitter.com/knHW1U958W
— TV News HQ (@TVNewsHQ) March 24, 2020
Fauci was absent from Monday’s White House briefing on federal efforts to combat the spread of the flu-like coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
Media outlets speculated that the medical expert’s absence suggested a rift between him and Trump.
The New York Times on Tuesday published a story with the headline “Trump Has Given Usual Leeway to Fauci, but Aides Say He’s Losing His Patience.”
Also on Tuesday, a Daily Beast headline blared, “Trump is Raving, Fauci is Losing and the Virus is Winning.”
Meanwhile, a CNN headline pondered: “Has Donald Trump had enough of Anthony Fauci?”
“I like Dr. Fauci a lot”
Fauci said he wasn’t tempering his advice with concerns for the national economy. That was Trump’s responsibility, he added, noting that a failing economy can have health consequences.
“What the President is trying to do is balance the public health issues with the fact this is having an enormous impact on the economy of the country which may actually, indirectly, cause an incredible amount of harm… even health-wise,” Fauci said.
Trump, during Monday’s briefing, admitted that he and Fauci do not always agree.
“If it was up to the doctors, they might say shut down the entire world,” said Trump, who noted that Fauci was not disagreeing with the idea that restrictions needed to be lessened sooner rather than later.
“He doesn’t not agree. He understands there’s a tremendous cost to our country both in terms of lives and in terms of economics. … He fully understands that.”
But Trump praised the director during Monday’s White House briefing.
“He’s a good man. I like Dr. Fauci a lot,” Trump said when when asked why Fauci was absent. “He’ll be back up soon.”