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As the coronavirus pandemic has progressed in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) subagency the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has become arguably America’s most trusted voice on all things COVID-19. At times during the pandemic, he has also been subject to attacks from President Donald Trump.
The Trump-Fauci feud stems primarily from a major difference in opinion between the two figures. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has continued to insist that the U.S. is tackling the crisis well despite the country far outnumbering any other nation in COVID-19 cases and deaths, whereas Fauci remains urgently concerned about the increasing spread of the virus.
On July 7, Trump said in a TV interview that he disagreed with Fauci’s sentiments that the U.S. is failing to contain the virus and claimed the country is “in a good place” with regards to COVID-19. On July 9, Trump said in another TV interview that Fauci initially stood against Trump’s travel ban to China and failed to advocate for mask-wearing in the early stages of the pandemic. (Trump made headlines for publicly wearing a face mask for the first time on July 11, and his refusal to wear masks for the first four months of the pandemic is widely documented.)
On July 12, Dan Scavino, Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications, shared a cartoon on social media portraying Fauci as a faucet whose water drowns Uncle Sam and the American economy with requests to close schools, mandate lockdowns, and halt the NFL’s operations. The creator of the cartoon was banned from the White House last year for his use of anti-Semitic imagery. On July 13, Trump himself shared additional social media posts attacking Fauci.
That same day, Fauci told reporters that the coronavirus pandemic is nowhere close to coming to a halt in the U.S. On July 14, Fauci said during a webinar that the public should most closely pay attention to, among the many voices weighing in on the pandemic, “respected medical authorities.” He also said that no matter people’s political affiliations, everybody is waging the same battle against COVID-19 and called “political nonsense” a “waste of time and a distraction.”
Although the Trump-Fauci feud has escalated in recent weeks, Trump first made headlines for attacking Fauci in April 2020, barely a month into most states enacting mandatory stay-at-home orders. On April 12, Trump shared a social media post calling for Fauci to be fired after Fauci admitted that an earlier start to shutdowns could have saved more lives.
Fellow medical experts have often come to Fauci’s defense, especially following Trump’s most recent remarks, after which a prominent group of infectious disease specialists warned of the dangers of the Trump-Fauci feud. Additionally, Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a close collaborator of Fauci’s, said on Wednesday that widespread face mask use – for which Fauci began advocating in April but Trump only began calling for on Tuesday – could halt the COVID-19 outbreak in just four to six weeks.