Fauci says Trump pressured him to be 'more positive' on pandemic

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House offers to answer Nicki Minaj's questions about COVID vaccine Trinidad health minister shoots down Minaj claims about vaccines Majorities in new poll support requiring proof of vaccine to fly, enter arenas MORE told The New York Times that former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE pressured him to offer more sunny projections about the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There were a couple of times where I would make a statement that was a pessimistic viewpoint about what direction we were going, and the president would call me up and say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you more positive? You’ve got to take a positive attitude. Why are you so negativistic? Be more positive,’ ” Fauci told the newspaper in an interview published Sunday.

Asked whether Trump offered reasons for wanting more optimistic public statements, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the then-president “didn’t get into the whys or anything.”

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“[H]e didn’t do that kind of specificity. He just expressed disappointment,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s warnings about the pandemic were frequently at odds with Trump’s, although Fauci rarely directly called Trump’s assessments incorrect or false. Trump at one point called Fauci “a little bit of an alarmist,” with the public health expert later responding, “I consider myself a realist, as opposed to an alarmist.”

In the New York Times interview, Fauci directly addressed threats he received after becoming a prominent face of the federal response to the pandemic.

“It was the harassment of my wife, and particularly my children, that upset me more than anything else. They knew where my kids work, where they live. The threats would come directly to my children’s phones, directly to my children’s homes,” Fauci said. “How the hell did whoever these assholes were get that information?”

He went on to say that much of the threatening online rhetoric about him was “right-wing craziness” from people who believed his assessments were damaging Trump’s odds of reelection.

Fauci said in the same interview, his first extensive remarks to the press since President Biden took office, that at one point he opened an envelope full of an unknown powder that was eventually determined to be harmless.