Fauci says contradicting Trump 'not helpful,' avoiding 'being overtly at odds'

“Then all of a sudden, you don’t hear from me for a while,” Fauci said.
Image: Anthony Fauci, flanked by President Donald Trump, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House
Dr. Anthony Fauci, flanked by President Donald Trump, speaks during the daily briefing on the coronavirus at the White House on April 22, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested in a new interview that he's trying to walk a fine line in his public messaging of informing the public about the coronavirus but steering clear of contradicting President Donald Trump.

In an interview with New York Times op-ed columnist Jennifer Senior, the nation's top infectious disease expert said it’s “not helpful” for him to say something directly contrary to what the president is doing because “[t]hen all of a sudden, you don’t hear from me for a while.”

“I’m trying to do my best to get the message across without being overtly at odds, OK?,” Fauci said Tuesday.

“The only thing I can do is to get out there with whatever notoriety or recognition I have and say, these are the four or five things. Please pay attention to them. And if we do that, I feel confident that we’ll turn this around,” he added.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would be better if the response to the pandemic was “a little more uniform” in the United States, meaning, he said, “the fundamentals. Wear a mask. Avoid crowds. Close the bars. Bars are the hot spots.”

During the interview, which was conducted before Trump’s coronavirus press conference Tuesday, Fauci said he didn’t know whether he was expected to attend.

Asked if he had spoken to the White House about it, he said, “No. But that’s not unlike them all of a sudden, middle of the day, to say, “Be down there at 5 o’clock.” So I’m not too — what’s the right word? — surprised that I haven’t heard anything yet.”

He was ultimately absent from the briefing.

Trump offered a sober assessment of the pandemic during the briefing, saying, “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” but also stood by his claim that, contrary to all evidence, the coronavirus would "just disappear."

The president also pivoted on masks, encouraging Americans who could not socially distance to wear them and saying, "Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they'll have an effect, and we need everything we can get." Trump has previously referred to the use of masks as a personal choice or influenced by political correctness.