After a day of wild media speculation, the White House said on Monday that “President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci.”
Asked by The Federalist whether Trump has any plans to fire Fauci, Hogan Gidley, a deputy assistant to the president, sent a statement that said Fauci “remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.” Gidley also responded to The Federalist’s question about a tweet Trump quoted on Sunday that included a #FireFauci hashtag.
“This media chatter is ridiculous – President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci. The President’s tweet clearly exposed media attempts to maliciously push a falsehood about his China decision in an attempt to rewrite history,” said Gidley. “It was Democrats and the media who ignored Coronavirus, choosing to focus on impeachment instead, and when they finally did comment on the virus it was to attack President Trump for taking the bold decisive action to save American lives by cutting off travel from China and from Europe.”
“Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump,” he added.
Gidley’s statement came after a wave of media coverage misrepresented a CNN interview with Fauci on Sunday. During an interview with Jake Tapper, Fauci said earlier implementation of social distancing guidelines could possibly have decreased the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Media coverage has implied Fauci explicitly blamed Trump for delaying the shutdown and costing lives.
In the original interview, Fauci said that in an ideal world, acknowledging the severity of coronavirus earlier could have hypothetically saved lives. Fauci also noted, however, the difficulty of making the unprecedented decision to shut down the entire world economy.
“You know Jake, again, it’s the ‘what would have,’ ‘what could have,’ it’s very difficult to go back and say [implementing social distancing earlier would have saved lives],” Fauci told Tapper. “You could logically say if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, yeah, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But, what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated.”
Here’s what CNN reported: “Asked why the President didn’t recommend social distancing guidelines until mid-March — about three weeks after the nation’s top health experts recommended they be put in place — Fauci said, “You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it’s not. But we — it is what it is. We are where we are right now.”
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman trumpeted Fauci’s comment as “confirmation” of a Times story about the president downplaying the threat posed by coronavirus. The Guardian echoed that claim. Haberman’s tweet was amplified by other journalists and media figures, but of course, Fauci did not explicitly say anything about Trump.
Fauci himself said as late as Feb. 29, “Right now, at this moment, there’s no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day by day basis. Right now the risk is still low.”
This is confirmation of our story, which focused on various moments the president had to take the threat more seriously and didn’t, in no small part due to the culture of government he’s created. https://t.co/n7nlQEZ78N
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 12, 2020
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) April 13, 2020
Time literally said Fauci had “critique[d] the White House” in its headline on the story, which oversells the actual quote. Here’s Rawstory’s headline: “‘It is what it is’: Fauci carefully admits Trump ‘could have saved lives’ if he took the virus seriously”
Both those headlines put the word “Trump” in Fauci’s mouth, when the doctor was clearly trying to speak more broadly than Tapper’s question and went out of his way not to directly blame the president.
In the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin wrote Fauci “admitted” that “People died who would not have if Trump had done his job.”
Statements such as “we could have prepared” or “we could have had a robust testing system” are true but fail to capture the essence of the tragedy that has unfolded. People died who would not have if Trump had done his job. Fauci admitted as much https://t.co/M5AcIBRt5A
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) April 13, 2020
Laurence Tribe similarly said Fauci “admitt[ed]” Trump “has the blood of thousands on his hands.”
If Fauci keeps telling the truth & people figure out that he’s admitting Trump has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, he’s likely to be marginalized & muffled if not fired. Watch this space.https://t.co/vZ0x2s0VU4
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) April 12, 2020
Again, that’s not really what Fauci said. He “admitted” that an earlier shutdown would likely have saved lives, but said such a decision was “complicated.” Asked why the president waited to urge social distancing, Fauci did not mention Trump. He said medical experts made the recommendation, and it was not taken. Journalists can argue that implicates Trump, but that’s something different. Oddly enough, Vanity Fair got it right when the outlet used a headline that said Fauci had “deflect[ed]” to avoid commenting on Trump.
Whatever the state of Trump’s relationship with Fauci, much of the coverage of the doctor’s answer required some stretching.