• President Trump, apparently tired of the dire coronavirus updates that Dr. Anthony Fauci keeps sharing with the public, has taken to openly warring with and even belittling the White House health advisor.
  • Things have gotten bad enough that even Republican senators, normally loathe to break ranks with the president for any reason, have been lining up to defend Dr. Fauci.
  • This comes amid interviews in recent days in which Trump and Fauci have taken to openly snipping at each other.

Among the latest coronavirus updates that Americans were greeted with as the week began, which included experts stepping up their warnings that things are going to start getting really bad in the next few weeks, comes yet another example of why the US has lagged so far behind the rest of the world in the fight against COVID-19.

For some reason, President Trump has taken to now just openly warring with White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who’s also been the face of the country’s response to the now months-long pandemic. Fauci’s star rose early during the pandemic once he began to be seen as a rare voice of authority in an administration that otherwise seemed bereft of ideas, but it seems that now, heading into what may be the worst point yet of the pandemic, Trump is tired of him. And he doesn’t care who knows it.

Fauci conceded in a 60 Minutes interview that he wasn’t surprised Trump contracted COVID-19 a few weeks ago. “I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded — no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” he said, a reference to the White House event where Trump formally unveiled his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. “When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that — that’s got to be a problem.’ And then, sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”

That apparently set the president off.

On Monday, during a call with Trump 2020 staff, the president lit into the doctor. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said. “These people that have gotten it wrong.

“Fauci is a nice guy. Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. Fauci’s a disaster. If I’d listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths.”

For his part, Fauci responded to the vitriol with a line from The Godfather in an interview on Monday with Southern California radio station KNX1070. “We are seeing an uptick in cases — higher than they’ve ever been. Many, many states that had been doing reasonably well are now showing upticks, that’s what we should be concentrating on … [Fighting the virus is] the only thing I really care about. That other stuff, it’s like in The Godfather — Nothing personal, strictly business, as far as I’m concerned.”

Even so, Trump’s allies in the Senate are breaking ranks with the president a bit and letting it be known they’re not happy with the attacks on Fauci — a rare display of fissure between GOP Senators and the White House.

Examples:

  • South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune told CNN his advice for Trump: “Stay away from personal attacks. Quit attacking the media. Quit attacking Fauci and focus on issues. … He’s got to stay disciplined to do it, and I think that’s how you’re going to win over the middle people.”
  • Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander tweeted: “Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. … If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat.”
  • Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse responded to all this by calling Trump a “TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual” and insisting that he has “flirted with white supremacists.” (Again, Sasse is a Republican).
  • Even one of Trump’s most loyal Senate allies throughout his first term, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, felt compelled to voice his support of Fauci, per Politico: “I think in terms of Dr. Fauci, I trust his judgment.”
Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.