Dr. Anthony Fauci’s role as the face of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is challenged daily by criticisms from the White House — as well as what nearly all experts describe as misinformation on the virus being put out daily by President Trump.
Just the latest example was during a recent campaign call in which Trump said, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” before going on to say, “He’s been here for 500 years.”
When asked about pushback he receives from Trump and his administration, Fauci said it’s not something he worries about. “It's certainly not helpful, but that's something that I really don't think I should be wringing my hands about,” Fauci said during a conversation with Anjalee Khemlani at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit.
There is “a limited amount of time in the day,” Fauci added. Instead he tries to just get his “energy focused, as they say, like a laser, on what you know the proper and appropriate public health measure is.”
‘Hope that people hear you’
Just after Fauci spoke to Yahoo Finance, Trump arrived in Pennsylvania for campaign events and repeated his oft-used claim that, “We’re absolutely rounding the corner” on the virus. Public health experts paint a diametrically opposed picture of the pandemic, pointing to record case levels.
Even 8 days ahead of the election, Fauci says his focus remains educating the public and the “hope that people hear you and understand that adhering to public health measures now is going to make it easier.”
Fauci has repeated in interviews that he has never endorsed a political candidate during his career and promises he never will.
He also says he is not going to change no matter who is in the White House in 2021. It “is a consistent message [which] will not change because it really transcends whatever administration,” he added.
Fauci has served 6 presidents as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He was first appointed in 1984 and has helped lead the U.S. response to a range of diseases like HIV/AIDS to Ebola and Zika.
In addition to his role leading the response to the novel coronavirus, Fauci is a leading researcher helping the U.S. government understand new viruses as the chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation.
Fauci, Trump, and approval ratings
Throughout the pandemic, polls have consistently shown high approval ratings for Fauci. A recent example found nearly 2 in 3 voters rating his response to the pandemic as either “excellent” or “good.”
The contrast with Trump’s low approval ratings around the pandemic is stark, often annoying the president.
During a July briefing, Trump brought up Fauci’s approval ratings saying “it sort of is curious” before wondering aloud why “nobody likes me.”
Even in response to the recent news of another White House outbreak, Fauci wasn’t interested in weighing in on Vice President Pence’s decision to go ahead with campaign stops even after his chief of staff tested positive.
“I'm not going to comment on whether this or that rally should be canceled except to repeat what I've said many, many times” he told Yahoo Finance. “We should avoid as best as possible congregate settings, where you have people who are crowded together.”
Pence was set to go ahead with a rally in Hibbing, Minnesota, Monday afternoon after testing negative for the virus on that morning.
Not ‘an obstacle to the economy’
The closest Fauci has come to criticizing Trump directly came after at least 11 people who attended an event at the White House for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett tested positive, including the Trump himself. Fauci said shortly afterwards, "The data speak for themselves — We had a superspreader event in the White House,” he said.
“I try and get the point across as often as I possibly can that we shouldn't look at public health measures as something that's an obstacle to the economy,” Fauci told Yahoo Finance. “It's a safe and prudent way to get the economy opened.”
Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.
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