The Slatest

Fauci Warns It Could “Backfire” on Trump Campaign if It Uses Him in Another Ad

Donald Trump is seen side by side with Anthony Fauci.
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Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign should take down its ad that uses comments he made out of context. Fauci had already criticized the ad on Sunday, and on Monday he doubled down when he was asked about it on CNN. “It’s so clear that I’m not a political person,” Fauci said. “And I have never—either directly or indirectly—endorsed a political candidate. And to take a completely out of context statement and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought was really very disappointing.”

When CNN’s Jake Tapper said he had heard there was a possibility Fauci would be featured in another Trump ad, Fauci did not hide his horror at the prospect. “That would be terrible. I mean that would be outrageous if they do that,” Fauci said. “In fact, that might actually come back to backfire on them. I hope they don’t do that because that would be kind of playing a game that we don’t want to play.”

Fauci later clarified that when he said “backfired” he didn’t mean he could decide to quit. “Not a chance,” he told the Daily Beast. “Not in my wildest freakin’ dreams,” he added, “did I ever think about quitting.” Fauci went on to explain that what he meant is that if the campaign again uses him in an ad against his will, “they are in effect harassing me.” And considering that the goal of a campaign ad is to get voters on someone’s side, “their harassment of me might have the opposite effect of turning some voters off.”

Fauci issued a statement Sunday decrying the ad, saying that “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 that touts the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic features a brief clip of Fauci saying, “I can’t imagine anybody could be doing more.” The ad clearly suggests Fauci said that about Trump. The Trump campaign, and the president himself, defended the ad. “These are Dr. Fauci’s own words,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, said.

Joe Biden’s campaign is getting involved in the controversy and released its own ad that splices together Trump quotes to ultimately show the president apologizing to Fauci for misrepresenting his words.