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Fauci gets frank about Trump: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down’
Now it appears that Fauci’s frustration is showing.
When asked Sunday by Science magazine’s Jon Cohen about having to stand in front of the nation as “the representative of truth and facts” when “things are being said that aren’t true and aren’t factual,” the 79-year-old said there is only so much he can do.
“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci said, referencing Trump. “OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”
The frank comment was just one line of a lengthy Q&A published Sunday night in which Fauci shed light on his relationship with Trump, how the pair handle their differences and what happens before each coronavirus task force news conference.
On more than one occasion, Fauci, described by The Washington Post’s Ellen McCarthy and Ben Terris as “the grandfatherly captain of the corona*virus crisis,” has had to publicly contradict the president — a risky action that could conceivably jeopardize the scientist’s job.
Fauci acknowledged as much on Sunday.
“To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired,” he told Cohen, laughing.
Though he and Trump sometimes disagree, Fauci said the president does listen to him “on substantive issues.” But they stray when it comes to Trump’s delivery of the critical messages.
“It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject,” he said.
Cohen pressed him on Trump making statements that don’t “comport with facts.”
“I know, but what do you want me to do?,” Fauci responded. “I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?”
He went on to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the task force advises Trump ahead of his daily news conferences.
“We sit down for an hour and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda,” Fauci said, adding that the group also discusses what they want to emphasize to the public that day before meeting with Trump.
“Then we go in to see the president, we present [our consensus] to him and somebody writes a speech,” he explained. “Then he gets up and ad libs on his speech. And then we’re up there to try and answer questions.”
Fauci made his qualms with Trump’s ad libs known at Friday’s news conference when he was seen covering his face in apparent exasperation after the president mentioned the “Deep State Department,” referencing a conspiracy theory.
Asked if he was criticized for the gesture, Fauci said “no comment.”
Note Fauci’s reaction when Trump makes a deep state joke at the podium pic.twitter.com/cbNBxgqhRO
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) March 20, 2020
The scientist also took issue with Trump’s decision to continue shaking people’s hands at public events and the lack of physical separation at the daily news conferences.
While Fauci credited Vice President Pence with keeping people apart during task force meetings, the situation onstage in the press briefing room “is a bit more problematic.”
“I keep saying, is there any way we can get a virtual press conference,” he said. “Thus far, no. But when you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things 1,2,3,4 times, and then it happens. So I’m going to keep pushing.”