Fauci on differing with Trump on coronavirus 'game-changer': 'I just want to get the facts out'

Dr. Anthony Fauci,  the government’s top infectious disease expert, in a new interview addressed the times he's been forced to contradict President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE about the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, saying that he just wants to "get the facts out."

“I don’t want to embarrass him,” Fauci, who has become one of the public faces of the administration's response, told The New York Times in an interview published on Saturday. "I don’t want to act like a tough guy, like I stood up to the president. I just want to get the facts out. And instead of saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ all you need to do is continually talk about what the data are and what the evidence is."

The comments came as President Trump continues to tout an anti-malaria drug as a coronavirus cure, despite health officials' warnings that not enough is known about its effects to draw a conclusion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  has yet to approve the drug's use to treat COVID-19. 

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Fauci clarified some of Trump's comments about the drug on Friday after the president said he had a "good feeling" about it. He said that hydroxychloroquine could not be used to prevent COVID-19.

"Many of the things out there are what I have called 'anecdotal reports,'" he told reporters at a press briefing. “The information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”

He reiterated those remarks on Saturday, the same day that Trump tweeted that "HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine."

“I’m not totally sure what the president was referring to,” Fauci said. “Many things you hear out there are what I call anecdotal reports. They may be true, but they’re anecdotal. .. If you really want to definitively know if something works, you have to do the kind of trial that you get the good information with.”

Fauci acknowledged to The Times that he has been telling Trump things he doesn't want to hear and that he's "publicly had to say something different with what he states." But he said that Trump has listened to his remarks, noting that he's a "smart guy."

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"He’s not a dummy. So he doesn’t take it — certainly up to now — he doesn’t take it in a way that I’m confronting him in any way," he said. "He takes it in a good way.”

Fauci has warned for months now that the outbreak of COVID-19 could put a major strain on the U.S. healthcare system without strict measures in place to prevent mass gatherings. He has appeared on numerous television programs in recent weeks to inform Americans about the seriousness of the disease and the need for measures to slow its rapid spread. 

Speaking on CBS on Sunday, he said that his comments about Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial therapies did not amount to a disagreement. 

“I, on the other side, have said I’m not disagreeing with the fact anecdotally they might work, but my job is to prove definitively from a scientific standpoint that they do work,” he said. “So I was taking a purely medical scientific standpoint and the president was trying to bring hope to the people.”