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Fauci says Pence listens to him even though he's 'the skunk at the picnic'

Vice President Pence was praised by Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNew data suggest 'long COVID' symptoms last up to 9 months: Fauci The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, for his willingness to listen to the latter's dire warnings about the scope of the U.S.'s COVID-19 outbreak in an interview published Monday.

Answering emailed questions from The Washington Post, Fauci told the newspaper that Pence was doing his best to serve in his new role as head of the White House's coronavirus task force, on which Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, is a member.

“I am sometimes referred to as ‘the skunk at the picnic’ but Pence never directly asks me, the skunk, to be quiet or leave,” said Fauci in response to the questions, adding that Pence was "a truly decent person, and very smart, who is trying to do his best in a very difficult and fluid situation."

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“Some may say that Pence and his team are ‘too ideological’ but they are after all political people. This is not unexpected," Fauci added, according to the Post.

Fauci's praise for Pence comes amid criticism aimed at the Trump administration, particularly President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE, over the U.S.'s response to the coronavirus outbreak and the effectiveness of the U.S.'s response so far. The U.S. has reported more total confirmed cases than any country, and ranks fourth behind several South American countries in terms of total deaths per 100,000 citizens.

Trump himself has been accused by Democrats and others of downplaying the number of deaths across the country as a result of the virus and has made numerous inaccurate claims about it, including the assertion that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases end up being "harmless."

There have now been more than 5.6 million confirmed cases of the virus within the U.S.'s borders, and 176,223 deaths from the disease have been reported.