Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves as White House chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, is still grappling with the dangers of contradicting now-former President Donald Trump’s falsely rosy portrayal of the COVID-19 pandemic by presenting grim, science-based facts on the virus.
Trump’s retaliatory attacks on Fauci’s integrity whipped up fury from MAGA supporters “to the point that to this day I have to have armed federal agents guarding me all the time,” Fauci said in an interview with the Telegraph published on Friday. The doctor and his family have had security detail since at least April last year.
Fauci described how Trump would do or at least allow “terrible” things to happen to him if the official’s somber remarks on COVID-19 clashed with the artificially positive messaging coming from the White House.
“Like he allowed [White House trade adviser] Peter Navarro to write an editorial in USA Today saying that almost everything I’ve ever said was wrong,” the doctor said. “He allowed the communications department of the White House to send out a list to all of the media, all of the networks, all of the cables, all of the print press, about all of the mistakes I’ve made, which was absolute nonsense because there were no mistakes.”
It wasn’t necessarily the first time Fauci had to work with a president who dragged his feet during a public health crisis: As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) during the AIDS epidemic, Fauci had to lead efforts to find treatment for the virus that was ravaging the LGBTQ community while President Ronald Reagan infamously stood silent.
However, Reagan “never did anything to obstruct what I was trying to do,” unlike Trump, the health official told the Telegraph.
“I was trying to let science guide our policy, but [Trump] was putting as much stock in anecdotal things that turned out not to be true as he was in what scientists like myself were saying,” Fauci said. “That caused unnecessary and uncomfortable conflict where I had to essentially correct what he was saying, and put me at great odds with his people.”
Besides Navarro’s op-ed and the White House’s list of anti-Fauci talking points to the media, Trump himself bashed the doctor as the COVID-19 death toll continued to rise.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” the President complained during a call with his staffers in October. “Fauci is a disaster.”
Trump also tweeted that Fauci ought to “make better decisions” and griped about the amount of media attention the official was getting.