The president re-posted a tweet that used the hashtag #FireFauci, referring to one of the nation's leading disease experts

By Benjamin VanHoose
April 13, 2020 11:44 AM
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Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump let his displeasure with Dr. Anthony Fauci be known on Twitter over the weekend.

On Sunday, Trump, 73, quote-tweeted a post from DeAnna Lorraine (a Republican who unsuccessfully ran against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year) that criticized a Sunday interview Fauci did with CNN in which the health official discussed the federal response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The original tweet used the hashtag #FireFauci, which Trump quote-tweeted to defend his leadership amid the virus after Lorraine wrote that Fauci, 79, was now changing his position in order to knock the president.

In fact, in his CNN appearance, Fauci said that while a quicker government response would have been more effective in handling the pandemic, the situation was complex and not easily reduced to such simple assessments.

Host Jake Tapper noted that U.S. has become the epicenter of the pandemic worldwide compared to South Korea, which had its first confirmed case around the same time but has seen drastically fewer infections and deaths.

“[CNN’s] Sanjay Gupta said this is all because we got started too late in the U.S. — is that right, do you agree?” Tapper asked.

“It isn’t as simple as that, Jake, I’m sorry,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of Trump’s coronavirus task force.

He said that because of America’s geographic size and other factors, comparing the virus spread here to South Korea was “a little bit unfair.”

“Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don’t think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor,” he continued. “It’s very complicated.”

Fauci added later: “It is what it is. We are where we are now.”

He did not dispute reporting in The New York Times that he and other health officials had wanted social distancing guidelines announced in late February to slow the virus. But “there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then,” he said.

Such steps “logically … could have saved lives, no one is going to deny that,” Fauci said, “but what goes into those decisions is complicated.”

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Earlier this month, multiple outlets reported that Fauci would receive a 24-hour security detail after receiving threats to his personal safety.

Often seen at Trump’s side during White House coronavirus press conferences and in TV interviews about the pandemic, Fauci has emerged as a top figure in the fight against the highly contagious respiratory virus, urging citizens to stay home and social distance to slow the spread of the outbreak and avoid overwhelming hospitals.

While Fauci is well known and highly regarded in the field of public health and has worked with both Republican and Democratic presidents for decades, he is a new face to many Americans.

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His matter-of-fact demeanor has earned many admirers, but his newfound fame has come at a price: While interviewing Fauci, CBS This Morning’s Gayle King brought up the reports about him having to beef up security and asked about the “personal pressure” of being the face of the pandemic for the American public and delivering sobering news on a daily basis.

“You know, it’s my job,” Fauci said at the time. “This is the life I’ve chosen, and I’m doing it. I mean, obviously there’s a lot of pressure. I would be foolish to deny that. … It’s a job to do, and we’ve just got to do it.”

He’s also been open about disagreeing with the president on some issues.

“He goes his own way,” he told Science magazine in March. “He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”

A White House spokesman had no comment on Trump’s tweet.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.