In a move that seems destined to end in a public own, the Trump campaign put together a political ad featuring apparent praise from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the U.S. coronavirus task force. “I can’t imagine that … anybody could be doing more,” the infectious-disease specialist says in the spot, his words positioned as an endorsement of President Donald Trump’s pandemic response. Only trouble is, nobody ran the clip by Fauci, who was reportedly “totally surprised” to see himself complimenting the president. Fauci never offered Trump any such applause, as he would now like to make inescapably clear.
In a statement to CNN, Fauci clarified that, in his “nearly five decades of public service,” he has “never publicly endorsed any political candidate” — and he does not intend to start with Trump.
“The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public-health officials,” Fauci told the outlet.
As the Washington Post reports, Fauci’s original comment comes from an interview he gave Fox News in March. Fauci wasn’t talking about Trump at all; rather, he was gesturing to the around-the-clock efforts of the task force:
I have been devoting almost full time on this — almost full time. I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night and when I say night, I’m talking twelve, one, two in the morning. I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that. It’s every single day. So I can’t imagine that that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more. I mean, obviously, we’re fighting a formidable enemy — this virus. This virus is a serious issue here.
Trump, as you can see, does not factor into that “anybody,” having reportedly spent the earliest days of the pandemic actively downplaying the coronavirus’s threat. He also devoted a fair amount of time to discrediting Fauci and his work, so you will understand why Fauci would like to be excluded from this narrative. Unfortunately for him, though, the Trump campaign is sticking to its selective editing. In his own statement, communications director Tim Murtaugh said “the words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth,” which is both true and immensely disingenuous.