Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday he wasn’t happy about being part of a campaign ad for President Donald Trump.
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates,” he said in a statement, according to CNN and NBC News. “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 new ad, titled “Carefully,” was released after Trump’s discharge from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he was being treated for coronavirus last weekend. The ad touts the strength of Trump’s leadership in response to the pandemic.
An edited clip of Fauci shows him saying, “I can’t imagine that … anybody could be doing more.”
That footage came from an interview on Fox News’ “Life, Liberty & Levin” in March. The full answer to Mark Levin’s question about the nation’s response makes it clear that Fauci was talking about the collective response of people working in the federal government and the field of public health. “I mean, we’re talking about all hands on deck,” Fauci said, and went on to talk about health officials working long days as part of a team.
“I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force,” Fauci told Levin. “I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night, and when I say night, I’m talking 12, 1, 2 in the morning. I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that. It’s every single day. So I can’t imagine that that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more. I mean, obviously, we’re fighting a formidable enemy — this virus.“
Fauci mentioned “the president” only once in his four-minute answer to Levin’s question, commending him for curtailing travel from China.
In response to criticism of the ad, the Trump campaign’s communications director, Tim Murtaugh, tweeted: “Dr. Fauci has repeatedly said the Trump Administration did everything possible to save lives.”
The president also defended the use of Fauci’s spliced quote, tweeting on Sunday evening: “They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words. We have done a ‘phenomenal‘ job, according to certain governors. Many people agree...And now come the Vaccines & Cures, long ahead of projections!“
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has been a central figure in the government’s response to the coronavirus. His newfound popularity has led to a somewhat uneasy public relationship with Trump.
In recent months, Trump has selectively chosen to highlight Fauci’s comments, sometimes approvingly when they match his views. On Aug. 16, he tweeted, “If carefully done, according to the guidelines, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that (vote at polling place). Doctor Anthony Fauci.”
At other times, Trump has pushed back against critics of his own leadership by insisting that Fauci sometimes offered bad advice on the pandemic. In his Sept. 29 debate with Joe Biden, Trump asserted Fauci initially said that “masks are not good — then he changed his mind.”
Fauci has criticized the Trump administration at times. Recently he called the event at the White House that introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee “a superspreader event.” A number of the participants, including the president, were subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19.
The White House has also been accused of keeping Fauci off the air to prevent him from saying things about the coronavirus it doesn’t want to hear.
Earlier Sunday, ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported that the White House had prevented Fauci from being interviewed on “This Week.”
“The White House would not allow Dr. Fauci to speak this morning,” Karl tweeted on Sunday morning. “In fact, the White House press office would not allow anyone on the President’s task force to be interviewed. Quite remarkable that they would muzzle the health experts in the middle of a pandemic.”
That sparked pushback from Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director.
“FALSE. 1) Dr Fauci has been doing media all week — appearing on PBS Newshour & NBC’s Andrea Mitchell 3 days ago,” she tweeted. “2) not getting your desired guest does not = the WH trying to ‘muzzle’ anyone. This narrative is tired. 3) @jonkarl didn’t request any other member of the task force.”