• Biden defended Fauci and attacked Trump's handling of the pandemic
  • Trump said people are tired of COVID and tired of Fauci
  • The death toll from the pandemic stands at 220,000

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday slammed President Donald Trump for calling Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, an “disaster.”

During a telephone call with his campaign staff on Monday, Trump called many of the scientists advising the White House “idiots” and said people were tired of hearing from Fauci. He said he didn’t fire Fauci, who has publicly called the president out, because it would call too much fallout this close to the election. Trump cannot fire Fauci, a career government official, directly because of Civil Service protections.

“People are tired of COVID. ... People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said.

He also called Fauci a “disaster.”

“Coronavirus infections are spiking across the country, but President Trump decided to attack Dr. Fauci again today as a ‘disaster’ and call public health experts ‘idiots’ instead of laying out a plan to beat this virus or heeding their advice about how we can save lives and get our economy moving again. President Trump even criticized me yesterday for listening to the scientists,” Biden said in a statement.

He also criticized Trump for an earlier interview on Axios where he said the virus’ death toll “is what it is.”

“Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: The American people are tired. They’re tired of your lies about this virus. They’re tired of watching more Americans die and more people lose their jobs because you refuse to take this pandemic seriously,” Biden said.

Trump attacked Fauci following a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, during which Fauci said he had not been surprised by Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, given his refusal to wear a face mask consistently or follow social distancing guidelines.

In a tweet later in the day, he made fun of the diminutive scientist for the first pitch he tossed out at the Washington Nationals' opening day.

Coronavirus has infected more than 8 million Americans since March, killing 220,000. Forecasts indicate the death toll could nearly double by the end of the year.

(This story was corrected to clarify with whom Trump was speaking)