President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at medical experts and complained about people being tired of hearing about COVID-19, as the confirmed death toll in the U.S. ticked closer to 220,000 and the spread of the disease continued to accelerate.
Trump made the comments on a call with campaign staffers, seeking to pass blame for the pandemic and seemingly lamenting his inability to shift the national conversation.
“People are tired of Covid,” Trump said. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”
“Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him,” Trump added. “This guy’s a disaster.”
The president was referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine and distort Fauci’s comments as the public health expert has called for the implementation of safety protocols throughout the pandemic.
“If there’s a reporter on [the call], you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less,” Trump said.
The president returned to the theme in a series of tweets Monday afternoon, claiming Fauci “seems to get more airtime” than he does and contending that Fauci “said ‘no masks & let China in.’”
Early in the pandemic, Fauci didn’t recommend wearing masks out of concern there wouldn’t be enough for front-line workers, but he changed his tune once research showed simple homemade cloth masks worked.
Trump also criticized Fauci for wearing a Washington Nationals mask and having a “Bad arm!” — a reference to Fauci throwing the ceremonial first pitch for the team earlier this year. (Trump has never thrown a first pitch as president, despite several invitations. In July, Trump announced ― then said he had canceled ― plans to throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, only for a source to reveal that he’d never actually been invited.)
Roughly 30 minutes after Trump’s tweets, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) dismissed the president’s claims without mentioning him by name:
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called out the president’s attacks as misplaced and counterproductive. He urged Trump to instead formulate a cohesive national strategy to confront the virus.
“Coronavirus infections are spiking across the country, but President Trump decided to attack Dr. Fauci again today ... instead of laying out a plan to beat this virus or heeding their advice about how we can save lives and get our economy moving again,” the Biden campaign said in a statement Monday afternoon.
“The American people have never backed down from a challenge,” the statement continued, “but they need a leader to show the way and all President Trump has done is cower and wallow in self-pity.”
Trump’s comments represent a doubling down on a new presidential pandemic strategy: Blame the experts.
On Sunday, Trump attempted to attack his opponent in the election by saying Biden would follow expert guidance if he were elected.
“He’ll listen to the scientists,” Trump warned at a campaign rally in Nevada. “If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression, instead of, we’re like a rocket ship. Take a look at the numbers.”
Broadly speaking, it is true that Trump has ignored established science. Evidence suggests, however, that his inaction has inflamed the pandemic and its economic repercussions, not made the situation better.
The president has steadfastly refused to endorse a national mask mandate, going so far as to block a draft order last month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would mandate that masks be worn on public transportation.
Scientists and medical experts consider masks to be an effective way to prevent transmission of the coronavirus and safely reopen the economy.