Opinion | Fauci’s anger at Trump is more damning than it first appeared

The Trump campaign and White House has not indicated that any additional safety measures will be taken to prevent the transmission of the virus among those traveling on Air Force One, at the event site or at rallies scheduled for Pennsylvania and Iowa later in the week.

It’s in this context that we should view the current clash between Trump and Fauci, his top infectious-disease expert, over a new Trump campaign ad that has provoked Fauci’s ire.

The ad proclaims that the country is “recovering” from coronavirus, after Trump “tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.” To buttress this laughable lie, the ad quotes Fauci saying: “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”

But that Fauci footage is ripped out of context to make it appear as if he were referring to Trump. As Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler shows, it actually comes from an interview in which Fauci praised the dedication of the coronavirus task force, not Trump. In fact, Fauci was talking about the around-the-clock schedule of the task force more than anything else.

Fauci has issued a remarkable statement ripping the Trump campaign for using the comments without his permission and “out of context.” Fauci also notes that his words were “about the efforts of federal public health officials,” which is to say, not about Trump.

That’s quite a burn of the president. (And let’s be clear, this constitutes anger at Trump, since he approved that twisting of Fauci’s words.) But it also points to another way in which this whole affair is more damning than it first appears.

Why this is so damning

Here’s why: At around the time that Fauci uttered those words, Trump was actively and determinedly resisting the efforts of federal health officials, including the coronavirus task force, to take the steps they deemed necessary to stop coronavirus’s spread.

So the use of Fauci’s comments doesn’t just pluck them out of context. It also distorts them in a manner designed to rewrite much of the history of Trump’s own depraved and malevolent dereliction of duty during an absolutely critical period.

Fauci made the comments in an interview on March 22. At the time, the country was consumed in a debate over whether to extend 15-day guidelines — created by the task force — on social distancing, staying home from work and other mitigation methods that Trump had agreed to issue in mid-March.

As it is, Trump had to be dragged to even that point. Trump’s top health officials had concluded as early as mid-February that such recommendations were urgently needed. But as the New York Times detailed, Trump worried about harming the economy — which would undercut his reelection hopes — thus squandering “crucial additional weeks” before he “reluctantly” acted.

Even worse, Trump relentlessly undermined those guidelines. Throughout that period, he balked at the need to extend them, insisting the country should reopen by mid-April, which health experts warned was dangerously premature.

Much of this could have been avoided if Trump had heeded the warnings that Fauci and other experts were issuing at precisely the time when Fauci uttered the words that have now been twisted into praise of the president’s mismanagement of this whole catastrophe.

The depravity continues

On top of all this, Trump has become a walking example of much of what Fauci has advised against.

Trump recently held a gathering at the White House introducing his Supreme Court nominee that flouted social distancing guidelines, which Fauci himself bluntly described as a “superspreader event.” And now Trump is resuming rallies that are all but certain to feature little mask-wearing, in violation of the very guidelines advocated for by Fauci and other experts.

In the crowning insult, Trump is now falsely insisting that Fauci’s “own words” actually did praise his personal handling of this whole crisis. In fact, Trump’s use of them falsifies the history of his towering failures all throughout. The staggering dishonesty on display here should only serve as a reminder of that history.

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