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Fauci responds to Trump: 'I consider myself a realist, as opposed to an alarmist'

Fauci said he had not gotten "official word" about the White House's plan to restart its coronavirus task force briefings.
Image: Dr. Anthony Fauci prepares to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to testify before a Senate health committee hearing June 30.Al Drago / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday evening rejected President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of him of being "an alarmist," saying he considered himself "a realist" but also "an optimist."

Asked if Trump’s characterization was unfair, Fauci, in an interview on Instagram Live with Maria Shriver, said, “I believe so, but then again, others have different opinions.”

“I’m a realist but I’m also an optimist," added Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci warned last week that the coronavirus pandemic could be as bad as the 1918 flu pandemic, which is estimated to have killed at least 50 million people worldwide. He also warned late last month that the number of COVID-19 cases could top 100,000 a day.

Fauci's comments Monday on Instagram came after the president said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that Fauci is “a little bit of an alarmist.”

“Dr. Fauci, at the beginning, said this will pass, don’t worry about it, this will pass," Trump said. "He was wrong. Dr. Fauci said don’t ban China. I did, he then admitted that I was right”

Trump said that this administration is not involved in a campaign to discredit Fauci, but then questioned why the infectious disease expert had said at the beginning of the outbreak that people shouldn’t wear a mask.

“Dr. Fauci told me not to ban China, it would be a big mistake. I did it over and above his reservation," Trump said. "Dr. Fauci then said, ‘You saved tens of thousands of lives, more than that.' Dr. Fauci's made some mistakes, but I have a very good — I spoke to him yesterday at length — I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci."

In her interview with Fauci, Shriver asked if he'll be joining Trump at the coronavirus briefing that the president is restarting Tuesday, but Fauci appeared to be unaware that it was happening, saying he had not gotten the "official word" yet for when the next one is scheduled. Trump told reporters on Monday that he would hold a new briefing on Tuesday, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.

“If they start the briefings, I would imagine I would be part of it — at least some of them," Fauci said.

But in an interview with CNN shortly after 4.p.m. ET, Fauci said he hadn't yet been invited to the briefing.

"I’m assuming I'm not going to be there," he said.