As the country enters the third and possibly largest coronavirus surge, Donald Trump is clinging to a message that’s been viewed as a critical factor behind his increasingly imperiled reelection chances.
“Fauci is a disaster,” Trump said on Monday, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading expert on infectious diseases, during a reported phone call with his campaign team. “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths.” He then proceeded, according to CNN’s Kaitlin Collins, to defiantly instruct any reporters who may be listening on the call to “have it just the way I said it,” adding that he “couldn’t care less” if his newest attacks on Fauci were made public. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said at another point.
The resoundingly anti-science, anti-reality remarks—public health experts, including Fauci, agree that the death toll in the United States could have been reduced with more robust, earlier action—come a day after the president, in a strange effort to mock Joe Biden, warned that if elected, Biden would adhere to the advice of the scientific community. “He’ll listen to the scientists,” Trump warned at a Nevada rally on Sunday, apparently referring to comments Biden made in an August interview with ABC News. “If I listened to the scientists, we’d have a country in a massive depression.”
The bizarre warning, coupled with his refusal to ditch some of the worst themes of his pandemic response, is likely to have the unintended effect of boosting his Democratic challenger. It’s also all but certain to fuel ongoing attacks against Fauci. Hours after the rally on Sunday, 60 Minutes featured a new interview during which Fauci detailed death threats he’d received.
Once an avid runner, Dr. Anthony Fauci, now 79, power walks. Since receiving death threats, he is now accompanied by a security detail. https://t.co/lbtcL5htQS pic.twitter.com/Q3KG0kV0rV
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) October 18, 2020
Shortly after the staff call, Trump on Monday continued to blast Fauci—insulting both his coronavirus expertise and baseball prowess—on Twitter:
…P.S. Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals’ Mask for two reasons. Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing. Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2020