KEY POINTS

  • Fauci's remarks referred to the job public health officials were doing, not to Trump's response
  • Fauci said in his 50 years of public service, he has never endorsed a political candidate
  • Trump campaign officials said the words were Fauci's, not recognizing the selective editing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and perhaps the most trusted voice on the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, says the Trump campaign not only took a statement of his out of context, it put it into a campaign ad without his permission.

“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in a statement to CNN Sunday shortly after the ad made its debut. “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 quotes Fauci as saying, “I can't imagine that … anybody could be doing more,” appearing to endorse President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

In actuality, Fauci was not referring to Trump at all:

After Fauci issued his statement and fact checkers pointed out the discrepancy, the Trump campaign doubled down.

“These are Dr. Fauci’s own words. 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,” the Trump campaign said in a statement to the Washington Post.

The distortion is just the latest insult delivered by Trump.

The president repeatedly has criticized Fauci for being too much of a naysayer and in July tried to discredit the expert as a “nice man” who has “made a lot of mistakes.” The White House also tried to marginalize Fauci, excluding him from pandemic briefings.

Fauci often has contradicted Trump as the president has tried to downplay the danger posed by the virus, urging adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for slowing spread of the disease that has killed about 215,000 of the nearly 7.8 million Americans it has infected since March.

“I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things,” Fauci told the Financial Times in July, explaining why his media appearances had been curtailed and saying he had not spoken with the president in two months.

Trump has admitted intentionally downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic and even now, after having survived a bout with COVID-19 following an apparent superspreader event at the White House, was flouting mitigation guidelines, scheduling campaign appearances that have no mandatory requirements for masks or social distancing.

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