"I was worried that he was going to get sick," Fauci said on 60 Minutes

By Virginia Chamlee
Updated October 19, 2020 01:14 PM
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Dr. Anthony Fauci didn't mince words in a wide-ranging 60 Minutes interview on Sunday in which he said he was "absolutely not" surprised to hear of President Donald Trump's recent diagnosis with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

"Were you surprised that President Trump got sick?" CBS News' Jon LaPook asked in the segment.

"Absolutely not," Fauci, 79, replied. "I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation ... [with] no separation between people and almost nobody wearing a mask."

Fauci was referring to an event held Sept. 26 at the White House Rose Garden, in which Trump, 74, announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The event was reportedly attended by more than 200 people, more than two dozen of whom have since tested positive for COVID-19 (though the ultimate source of their infection has not been confirmed).

Many attendees were seen without masks and in close physical proximity, talking and touching.

"When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that,' " Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on 60 Minutes, briefly covering his face with his hands. "That's gotta be a problem.' And sure enough, it turned out to be a super-spreader event."

Before contracting the virus himself, Trump — who attended other events in the before announcing he tested positive — repeatedly downplayed the illness' severity, often mocking his rival, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, for wearing a mask.

President Donald Trump looks on as Dr. Anthony Fauci addresses the media during a coronavirus task force briefing on April 10.
| Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

Less than 24 hours after the White House confirmed his diagnosis on Oct. 2, Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His doctors later said he saw a spike in fever and lowered oxygen levels.

Questioned about Trump's vacillation on mask-wearing, Fauci told 60 Minutes, "I think that's less [about being] anti-science and more of a statement ... I think he sometimes equates wearing a mask with weakness."

Fauci, who told LaPook he would vote in person this year, didn't offer specifics as to whom he supports for president, in keeping with what he said was his long tradition of nonpartisanship. "I do not and nor will I ever publicly endorse any political candidate," he said.

He did, however, make clear his thoughts on being included in a recent Trump campaign ad.

The spot in question was released after the president was discharged from Walter Reed following his three-day hospitalization for COVID-19.

“President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America,” a narrator says in the 30-second clip. “Together we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them life-saving drugs in record time, sparing no expense.”

The ad then cuts to a short clip of Fauci saying: “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”

"Quite frankly I got really ticked off," Fauci said on 60 Minutes of the ad, reiterating — as he has previously — that his words were taken out of context and calling his inclusion "outrageous."

While he has pushed back against the ad, it continues to air in swing states across the country. (The president has alternately complimented and criticized Fauci, who is one of the country's leading infectious disease experts and who has sometimes differed from Trump's opinions about the pandemic.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci
| Credit: Shutterstock

On 60 Minutes, Fauci said that the White House had placed restrictions on him: "I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me."

He also briefly touched on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted him personally, sharing that his own mother-in-law, who is 96 and lives in an assisted living facility, was diagnosed with the virus.

It's changed his life in other ways, too: Fauci told 60 Minutes that many of his family members have received harassment and even death threats as a result of his newfound visibility — particularly, Fauci has said, from people who oppose public health measures to slow the virus — and he now travels with federal agents, even when power-walking around his neighborhood.

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