President Trump railed against Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday, attacking him on both a campaign call and in a pair of Twitter posts that zeroed in on the coronavirus expert's appearance at a baseball game.
“All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions,” Trump tweeted. “Also, Bad arm!”
Earlier in the day, Trump said that people were tired of coronavirus mitigation efforts, according to multiple reporters listening in on a campaign staff call two weeks out from Election Day. He also claimed, without evidence, that if the administration had listened to Fauci, one of the nation’s premier infectious disease experts and the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “we’d have 700,000, 800,000 deaths.”
“People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies. People are saying, ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said, adding, “Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years.”
While Americans are certainly tired of COVID-19, polling shows a majority are committed to taking precautions to try to reduce its spread. According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, 67 percent say it should be mandatory to wear a mask in public. Another 60 percent say Trump is not following the advice of medical experts closely enough.
A National Geographic/Morning Consult poll taken earlier in October found that 74 percent of Americans said they always wear a mask when leaving their home.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 219,000 Americans and resulted in the president himself being hospitalized earlier this month, has been criticized since the coronavirus appeared early this year. The Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 59 percent of respondents say the president underestimated the risks.
“Every time [Fauci] goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him,” Trump added. “This guy’s a disaster."
Trump continued attacking Fauci via Twitter Monday afternoon, mocking him for a poor first pitch at a Washington Nationals game earlier this year and noting how much “airtime” the doctor had recently, including a feature on Sunday night’s “60 Minutes.” In that interview, Fauci said he had received death threats and had protection from federal agents due to “the very fact that a public health message to save lives triggers such venom and animosity to me that it results in real and credible threats to my life and my safety.” However, he added, “it bothers me less than the hassling of my wife and my children.”
The war of words between Fauci and Trump intensified last week after Fauci asked that a Trump campaign ad featuring the doctor’s words being used out of context to praise the president be taken down. Fauci told the Daily Beast of the ad, “By doing this against my will, they are, in effect, harassing me. Since campaign ads are about getting votes, their harassment of me might have the opposite effect of turning some voters off.”
Trump was aware of the possibility that reporters were listening in on the call and noted, “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less.”
The president has started campaigning more over the last week, as polling shows him behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden both nationally and in key swing states.
Trump also implied on the call that some unknown scandal was about to damage Biden, leaving him an “impotent” candidate, and that the former vice president should be in prison. The president, who spent the 2016 campaign leading “Lock her up” chants aimed at then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has a history of insisting his opponents should be incarcerated.
The president concluded the call by telling staffers, “Get off this phone and work your asses off, because we are going to win.”
Read more from Yahoo News: