WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci as “a disaster” Monday and said, despite signs that the nation was headed toward another coronavirus peak, that people were “tired” of hearing about the virus from “these idiots” in the government.
The broadside, during a conference call with campaign staff just two weeks before Election Day, was hardly the closing message Trump advisers were looking for. It threatened to focus the electorate squarely on the president’s coronavirus response and pitted him against Fauci, who as the nation’s top infectious disease expert is a career government scientist the public likes and trusts far more than Trump.
In increasingly vocal terms, Fauci has been separating himself from the White House and warning Americans to “hunker down” and brace for a difficult winter — a message at odds with Trump’s repeated, if false, assurances that the nation is “rounding the corner” on a pandemic that has claimed about 220,000 American lives.
“People are tired of COVID,” Trump complained on the call, which several reporters were invited into. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have COVID. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”
He added, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”
Fauci’s cautionary words are borne out by the numbers. More than 70,450 new coronavirus cases were reported in the United States on Friday, the highest figure since July 24, according to a New York Times database. More than 900 new deaths were recorded. And over the past week, there have been an average of 56,615 cases per day, an increase of 30% from the average two weeks earlier.
Last week, Fauci, a career government scientist who has advised six presidents, accused the president’s campaign — though not Trump himself — of quoting him “completely out of context” and without his permission in a campaign ad. Then, in an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Fauci said he was not surprised that the president had contracted the coronavirus, given the lack of White House precautions.