Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday said President Trump never tried to block his recommendation to shut down society to thwart the coronavirus, hoping to downplay any rift with his boss after the president tweeted a posting that suggested the esteemed doctor ought to be fired.
“The president went with the health recommendations,” Dr. Fauci told White House reporters.
Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the trouble started when CNN posed a hypothetical to him on Sunday — essentially, whether lives have been saved if the U.S. had shut down earlier than mid-March.
“Obviously, you could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that,” Dr. Fauci told “State of the Union.”
Conservatives who are skeptical of Dr. Fauci’s allegiance to Mr. Trump cried foul and one user tweeted that Mr. Trump should “#FireFauci.”
Mr. Trump reposted the tweet with his own tweet defending his early action to ban certain travel from China.
The White House said Mr. Trump will not fire the doctor, and Dr. Fauci tried to clean things up at the White House podium.
He said he tried to answer the CNN question honestly but noted the president agreed when health experts urged him to recommend a 15-day shutdown, via guidelines, in mid-March. The president agreed and then signed onto an extension of the guidelines.
Dr. Fauci did mention vague “pushback” to shutting down earlier, but said Monday: “That was the wrong choice of words.”
The doctor said he wasn’t forced to make the statement late Monday.
“Everything I do is voluntarily,” Dr. Fauci said.