Published on April 13th, 2020 📆 | 2727 Views ⚑0
Trump spreads #FireFauci hashtag on Twitter as pandemic continues
President Donald Trump yesterday retweeted a Republican politician’s call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci from his post as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Trump’s decision to spread the anti-Fauci tweet came hours after Fauci, in an interview with CNN, said it’s “obvious” that the United States could have saved lives by imposing social-distancing measures in February as health experts recommended.
DeAnna Lorraine, a Republican who failed in a primary bid for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional seat in California’s 12th district last month, wrote yesterday that it’s “Time to #FireFauci” in a tweet criticizing Fauci for his CNN interview. Less than an hour later, Trump posted a quote-retweet of Lorraine’s #FireFauci call. “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up,” Trump wrote. (Trump was referring to a travel ban.)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020
Despite Trump’s #FireFauci retweet, White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said today that “This media chatter is ridiculous—President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Fauci: Earlier action could have saved lives
Fauci appeared on CNN yesterday afternoon and was asked about a New York Times report that said the following:
By the third week in February, the administration’s top public health experts concluded they should recommend to Mr. Trump a new approach that would include warning the American people of the risks and urging steps like social distancing and staying home from work. But the White House focused instead on messaging and crucial additional weeks went by before their views were reluctantly accepted by the president—time when the virus spread largely unimpeded.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Fauci if lives could have been saved if social-distancing and stay-at-home measures were implemented in the third week of February instead of mid-March. This was Fauci’s response:
It’s the what would have, what could have, it’s very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. But you’re right, 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.
In another tweet, Trump claimed the New York Times article was “fake news.”
Warnings in late February
Lorraine’s tweet criticized Fauci for “saying that had Trump listened to the medical experts earlier he could’ve saved more lives,” when Fauci himself “was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US public at large.”
Lorraine was apparently referring to a February 29 Today Show interview in which Fauci said, “right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis. Right now, the risk is still low, but this could change.”
Fauci also said in that interview that the US was in the beginning stages of community spread of the coronavirus, making it more difficult to track its spread. “When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread,” Fauci said.
A week before the Today interview, Fauci and other government health experts on the White House coronavirus task force met and “concluded they would soon need to move toward aggressive social distancing, even at the risk of severe disruption to the nation’s economy and the daily lives of millions of Americans,” according to the New York Times story. The question they were facing was not whether to take such measures, but when to take them.
Fauci walks fine line with Trump
Fauci, a renowned figure in public health who played a major role in the fight against HIV/AIDS, was appointed to his position in November 1984.
Last month, Science Magazine asked Fauci how he has avoided getting fired. “Well, that’s pretty interesting because to [Trump’s] credit, even though we disagree on some things, he listens,” Fauci said in response. “He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.” Fauci has had to correct some of Trump’s false statements, but tries to do so in a tactful way. “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci said.
Fauci’s willingness to contradict Trump has angered Republicans such as former congressman Ron Paul, who last week called for his firing. “People have to quit listening to him,” Paul said of Fauci, calling him a “fraud.”
Although Fauci isn’t a political appointee, he’s not necessarily immune to a political ouster. “By and large, most of the civil servants the president has sought to purge from the ranks lack much in the way of due process rights,” national-security lawyer Bradley Moss was quoted as saying in a recent Hill article about Trump firing inspectors general at multiple federal agencies.
Trump could take an indirect approach by pressuring HHS Secretary Alex Azar to fire Fauci. Azar was nominated to his position by Trump in 2017, but has reportedly clashed with the president over the coronavirus response. Trump accused Azar of being alarmist about the potential of a pandemic on January 30, the New York Times report said. Azar was originally in charge of the White House’s coronavirus task force, and is still technically its chairman, but Trump put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response in late February.
Even if Trump doesn’t try to push Fauci out of the government completely, the president could sideline him from the task force and press briefings.
“Despite his critics, Dr. Fauci—through White House briefings and regular television interviews—has become a popular figure in the country,” The Wall Street Journal wrote today in an article about Trump’s retweet. “A Quinnipiac poll last week put [Fauci’s] approval rating at 78 percent for handling of the crisis, versus the 46 percent approval rating for the president.”