Fauci on Trump coronavirus comments: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a new interview that he is working with the White House coronavirus task force to help ensure President Trump’s remarks about COVID-19 are accurate, though he admitted that the effort has its hurdles.

“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci told Science on Sunday after being asked about Trump’s repeated assertions that China could have disclosed the discovery of the coronavirus up to four months ago. The disease first appeared in the central city of Wuhan in December. 

Fauci said that he’s told the “appropriate people” that the suggestion does not comport with the facts in the hopes that the president will be more careful about his remarks. 

“OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time,” he added. 

Fauci, one of the public faces of the White House’s coronavirus response, has publicly broken with Trump on multiple aspects of the virus and its treatments. Last week, after Trump touted the advantages of an anti-malaria drug, Fauci said that, as of now, it could not be used for COVID-19. 

Asked in the interview how he’s managing not to get fired, Fauci said that to Trump’s credit, “even though we disagree on some things, he listens.”

“He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say,” he continued, noting that he doesn’t disagree with Trump on the “substance.” 

Rather, he said that Trump has expressed remarks in a way “in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.”

Fauci has warned for months now that the outbreak of COVID-19 could put a major strain on the U.S. health care system without strict social distancing measures in place. 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. 

He told Science that he is pushing for the White House to conduct virtual daily briefings, admitting that the news conferences can become crowded at the podium. 

“When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things 1, 2, 3, 4 times, and then it happens. So I’m going to keep pushing,” he said. 

As of Monday morning, the coronavirus had infected more than 343,000 people worldwide, including roughly 35,200 individuals in the U.S., according to a Johns Hopkins University database. The outbreak has overwhelmed the U.S. health system in some areas, prompting urgent calls for the administration to take swifter action to help states gain needed medical equipment. 

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