The nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has taken a rare foray into commenting about a political campaign by criticizing an advertisement for President Donald Trump that he says takes his words “out of context.” Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has long made a point of staying out of partisan politics and he is evidently none too happy that he made an appearance in an ad for the president’s reelection. “In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates,” Fauci said in a statement. “The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.”
The ad, titled “Carefully,” was released Saturday and focuses on how Trump’s administration has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 30-second ad, which starts by saying that Trump “is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America” includes a clip of Fauci saying he “can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.” The clip is from a March interview in which Fauci was referring to how the government was responding to the coronavirus and not Trump specifically. “We’re talking about all hands on deck,” Fauci said. “I, as one of many people on a team, I’m not the only person. Since the beginning, that we even recognized what this was, I have been devoting almost full time on this. I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force … It’s every single day. So, I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more.”
The Trump campaign was quick to push back against Fauci and said it would continue running the ad. “These are Dr. Fauci’s own words,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, said in a statement. “The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth.” Murtaugh also tweeted out a link to a page on Trump’s website that details how Fauci has “repeatedly said the Trump administration did everything possible to save lives.”
Trump also joined the fray and sent out a tweet repeating that “they are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words” and claiming “we have done a ‘phenomenal’ job.” Fauci once worked hand-in-hand with Trump at the beginning of the outbreak but the two have drifted apart as the pandemic has dragged on. Their relationship surely wasn’t helped when Fauci last week called the White House ceremony to unveil Trump’s Supreme Court nominee a “superspreader event” considering all the attendees who have since tested positive for COVID-19. On Sunday, Jonathan Karl of ABC News said he requested to interview Fauci but the White House blocked his appearance. White House communications director Alyssa Farah later pushed back on the characterization that Fauci was being “muzzled” by pointing out he made numerous TV appearances over the past week.