- President Donald Trump said in March he didn’t have “a lot of time” to meet Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, according to a new audio recording.
- Trump made the comment in a March 19 interview with the journalist Bob Woodward. CNN published audio from the interview on Monday.
- In the tape Woodward asked Trump whether he had “ever sat down alone with” Fauci, to which the president replied: “Yes, I guess, but honestly there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob. This is a very busy White House .”
- That same day Trump told Woodward he “always” wanted to play down the impact of the novel coronavirus.
- Six days before that conversation Trump had declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.
- In recent months the White House has sidelined Fauci’s scientific advice, and in some cases sought to undermine it.
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President Donald Trump said in March that he didn’t have “a lot of time” to meet Dr. Anthony Fauci as the coronavirus rapidly spread across the US, according to newly-released audio.
On Monday, CNN broadcast audio from an March 19 interview between the president and the journalist Bob Woodward.
Woodward had interviewed the present more than a dozen times for his book, “Rage,” which published last month.
In the interview, Woodward asked Trump what he made of Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, and whether the president has “ever sat down alone with him?”
Trump, in reply, said: “Yes, I guess, but honestly there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob. This is a very busy White House.”
The president also praised Fauci, saying: “He’s a very good guy. He’s done it before, he’s a very sharp guy.” Trump was likely referring to Fauci’s experience handling the HIV epidemic since the 1980s.
But in the months since the interview, Trump and Fauci appear to have fallen far apart.
At the time of the interview, Trump had been on the offensive, attacking the news media for condemning his handling of the outbreak and reluctance to enforce lockdowns and mandatory mask orders.
Trump and Fauci initially partnered up to give regular press conferences on the coronavirus crisis, but as the weeks went on, the White House began to sideline Fauci and his advice, and even started to attack it.
On July 19, Trump called Fauci “a little bit of an alarmist” who had “made some mistakes.” In “Rage,” Woodward wrote that Fauci had described Trump’s attention span “like a minus number.”
As Business Insider’s John Haltiwanger and Sonam Sheth previously reported, Fauci had long advocated quarantines and economic lockdowns to slow the virus’ spread, and had begun to question Trump advisers who pushed for unproven remedies.
On March 13, Trump declared a national emergency, just four days after comparing the coronavirus to the common flu. On March 18, Trump tweeted he “always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning.”
On March 19, Trump told Woodward he always wanted to downplay the impact of the novel coronavirus “because I don’t want to create a panic” — despite having admitted one month before that he was aware that the virus is worse than severe flus.
Trump was infected with COVID-19 last week and returned to the White House on Monday night after spending a few days in the hospital. He has continued to downplay the virus, and baselessly claimed he may be “immune.” He is still carrying the highly contagious virus.