Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has emerged as a lone voice of reason during President Trump’s daily covid-19 press briefings. He’s the one person Americans have been able to rely on to separate fact from administration-ordained fiction, and that’s precisely why his days might be numbered.
The New York Times reports that Trump has become “frustrated with Dr. Fauci’s blunt approach at the briefing lectern, which often contradicts things the president has just said.” This was most recently apparent during Friday’s presser, when Fauci was asked whether the drug hydroxychloroquine is an effective prophylactic against coronavirus, given anecdotal reports that it has been used as a preventative measure against the virus. Fauci said no; moments later, Trump said that he felt “good” about hydroxychloroquine treatment and that the government has already ordered millions of units of the drug.
The contradictions are occurring off the lectern as well. On Sunday, Science magazine published an interview with Fauci, in which he asserted that he will never call covid-19 the “Chinese Virus,” as the Trump is fond of, and that he isn’t afraid to call the United States’s current response an abject failure. From Science:
Q: Big Picture. We’ve had all this pandemic preparedness. Why did this fail? What went wrong?
A: I think we’ll have to wait until it is over and we look back before we can answer that. It’s almost like the fog of war. After the war is over, you then look back and say, wow, this plan, as great as it was, didn’t quite work once they started throwing hand grenades at us. It really is similar to that. Obviously, testing [for the new coronavirus] is one clear issue that needs to be relooked at. Why were we not able to mobilize on a broader scale? But I don’t think we can do that right now. I think it’s premature. We really need to look forward.
But Fauci was cagey in his response to how he manages to stand by as Trump lies. When asked why there are more than 10 people on the stage during Trump pressers and more than 10 journalists in the audience, Fauci replied, “I know that. I’m trying my best. I cannot do the impossible.” In response to a claim that the success of Trump’s China travel ban was a farce, Fauci said, “I know, but what do you want me to do?” He later added that when it comes to Trump spreading lies and misinformation, “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”
You can practically see his hands wringing themselves into knots.
Fauci joked that he hasn’t been fired yet, and made a point to mention that though he and Trump disagree, the president does listen to him. Still, in the Trump administration, loyalty takes precedent above hard truths. This has been the case time and again, as evidenced by the constant dismissals from the Trump administration. And lost in the malaise of covid-19 and the democratic primary was the news of the Trump administration’s most recent gutting of its White House staff.
Earlier this month, Trump lauded Fauci as having become a “major television star” with his numerous news program appearances. But as much as Trump values one’s ability to shine in front of the cameras, he only celebrates it to a point. Once an official is seen as more credible than Trump with the press—or even just doing their job well, in contradiction with Trump’s behavior—he sends them packing... quickly.