Earlier Wednesday, The Washington Post published audio from an interview of President Trump conducted by veteran journalist Bob Woodward in March, during which Trump admitted he “wanted to always play it [the pandemic] down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
On “The Daily Briefing,” host John Roberts asked Fauci if he thought Trump had played down the threat of the virus.
“No, I didn’t,” Fauci responded. “I didn’t get any sense that he was distorting anything. I mean in my discussions with him, they were always straightforward about the concerns that we had. We related that to him. And when he would go out, I’d hear him discussing the same sort of things. He would often say, ‘We just got through with a briefing with the group from the task force,’ and would talk about it. So it may have happened, but I have not seen that kind of distortion.”
Shortly after audio of the Trump/Woodward interview was published, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump, arguing that he acted like “good leaders” do by staying “calm” in the midst of a crisis. She added that the president “has never lied to the American public on COVID.”
Roberts also asked Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whether Trump broke with his advisers in trying to downplay the virus.
“You were there through that whole thing,” Roberts said. “Was that the playbook or was that the president just going his own direction?”
“I don’t think so, John,” Fauci responded. “I don’t recall anything different than in our discussions that we had with the president that he said things quite similar publicly.”
The March interview, along with 18 other on-the-record conversations between Woodward and Trump, form the basis of Woodward’s book “Rage,” due out later this month.
“I didn’t really go over any of the text since it just came out,” Fauci told Roberts. “But you know, in my discussions and the discussions of other task force members with the president, we’re talking about the reality of what was going on.
“And then when we would get up in front of the press conferences, which were very, very common after our discussions with the president, he really didn’t say anything different than we discussed when we were with him,” he went on. “I may not be tuned in to the right thing that they’re talking about. But, I didn’t see any discrepancies between what he told us and what we told him, and what he came out publicly and said.”
According to the Post, Woodward reports in his book that Fauci has described Trump as being “on a separate channel” and offering “rudderless” leadership. Woodward also has Fauci saying Trump’s “attention span is like a minus number” and “his sole purpose is to get reelected.”
Fauci told Roberts Wednesday that he didn’t recall saying those things.
“If you notice, it was [reported that] others have said [I said] that. So, you know, you should ask others. I don’t recall that at all,” he said. “So I mean … according to what I saw in the newspapers, it says ‘and others have said that.’ So you know, I don’t really want to get involved in the kind of stuff that is very distracting to the kind of things that I’m trying to do and that we’re all trying to do with this outbreak.”
Author : Sam Dorman