Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases authority, said Sunday that he was "taken out of context" in a new Trump campaign ad that features his comments "without my permission."
"In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News in a statement. "The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials."
The ad, titled "Carefully," which was released Saturday, promotes President Donald Trump's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It followed his discharge from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he was stricken with the virus. In the ad, Fauci says in a clip that he "can't imagine that anybody could be doing more."
The comment came from an interview Fauci conducted with Fox News in March in which he is speaking about the whole of the government response, not specifically about Trump's efforts.
"We're talking about all hands on deck," Fauci said. "I, as one of many people on a team, I'm not the only person. Since the beginning that we even recognized what this was, I have been devoting almost full time on this. I'm down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. It's every single day. So, I can't imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more."
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the campaign will continue to run the ad despite Fauci's objections.
"These are Dr. Fauci's own words," he said. "The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci's mouth."
Later Sunday afternoon, the Trump campaign emailed reporters a list of Fauci quotations, many from the pandemic's earlier days, in which he spoke positively of the administration's response.
Trump himself also weighed in:
Fauci and the White House have been at odds since the earlier months of the pandemic. Trump eventually sidelined him in favor of other advisers, such as Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who is not an expert in infectious diseases and has more aggressively promoted reopening sectors of the economy.
As Trump was recovering from his infection, Fauci said last week that the Rose Garden ceremony announcing federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court was a "superspreader event," as multiple attendees have since tested positive for the virus.
In the days around Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis, 23 people close to him and three Republican senators have tested positive.
"Well, I think the data speak for themselves. We had a superspreader event in the White House, and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks," he told CBS News Radio. "So the data speak for themselves."
While Trump downplayed the virus last week as similar to the flu, Fauci said it "is much different from influenza."
Coronavirus cases are on the rise across the country, while the death toll has topped 215,000, according to an NBC News tracker.