President Trump hinted to a crowd at a Sunday night rally that he planned to fire infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci “a little bit after the election.”
Trump was speaking in Opa-locka, Fla., at his final event of a packed weekend of campaign rallies when he began his talking point about how the media is too focused on the coronavirus, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans.
“All they want to do, you turn on the news, COVID COVID COVID COVID COVID,” Trump said. “We’d like to talk about COVID, and then here’s what happens: Nov. 4, you won’t hear too much about it. You won’t hear too much about it.”
The packed crowd then began a “Fire Fauci” chant, referring to the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. After taking in the chant, Trump said, “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait till a little bit after the election. I appreciate the advice. He’s been wrong on a lot. He’s a nice man, though, he’s been wrong on a lot.”
Trump lacks the power to directly fire Fauci, but he could order his political appointees to do so. Trump also signed an executive order in October that was meant to strip job security from senior civil servants like Fauci. It’s unclear what impact the order could have on Fauci’s future.
The United States set a new single-day record for COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with nearly 100,000 new positives. A number of states are seeing records for new cases, deaths and hospitalizations as experts warn things will get worse.
One of those experts sounding the alarm is Fauci, who in a Friday interview with the Washington Post said the U.S. is in for “a whole lot of hurt” — contradicting Trump’s relentlessly optimistic predictions about the virus. In a scorching Sunday statement, the White House admonished Fauci for the interview and accused him of “play[ing] politics” so close to Election Day.
As he has since the start of the pandemic, Trump has downplayed the virus at his daily campaign rallies. He regularly insists that the country is “rounding the corner” and that lockdown measures taken by Democratic governors are meant to hurt his reelection chances — and that those lockdowns will end as soon as Tuesday’s election has concluded.
For weeks, Trump has been publicly attacking Fauci — who told “60 Minutes” he has protection from federal agents due to death threats. On a call with campaign staff in October, Trump said, “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.
“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.”
About a week earlier, Fauci had asked the Trump campaign to remove a commercial in which his words were taken out of context to seem like an endorsement of the White House’s coronavirus response. 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.”
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