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NIH director said firing Fauci would be 'unimaginable'

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) director said Sunday that firing top infectious disease expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge US COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's MORE would be “unimaginable.”

NIH Director Francis Collins told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that no one from the White House has requested he demote or fire Fauci as the infectious disease expert has condemned what many see as White House attacks against him. 

“Nobody has asked me to do that, and I find that concept unimaginable,” Collins said.

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“And I am amused that everybody's calling me Dr. Fauci’s boss because his real boss is his wife, Christine Grady. She might have something to say about that,” he added. 

Collins’s remarks came as President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE denied the White House is running a campaign against Fauci during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” 

The NIH director also described the political debate over wearing masks as “bizarre.”

“It is bizarre that we have turned the mask wearing into something political,” Collins said.

“Our best chance is for all of us to get together and do the right thing, and stop fighting so much about the divide between different political perspectives, which is just getting in the way,” he added. 

Collins began his interview wearing a mask before taking it off, saying the closest person in the room to him was at least 10 feet away. 

“I didn't want anybody to think that we take masks as something optional for people who want to protect themselves and people around them,” he added. 

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has raised warnings in recent weeks as coronavirus cases surge across the country.

At the same time, Daniel Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, posted a photo showing Fauci as a faucet and depicting the expert as a leaker and an alarmist. Trade adviser Peter Navarro also posted an op-ed in USA Today saying the expert is wrong about “everything” he’s interacted with him about. 

Fauci said he doesn’t comprehend why these incidents are happening and has said they harm the president. 

“Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that,” Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic last week. “When the staff lets out something like that and the entire scientific and press community push back on it, it ultimately hurts the president.”