The New York Times – For Dr. Anthony Fauci, 80, the past year has stood out like no other.
As the coronavirus ravaged the country, Dr. Fauci’s calm counsel and commitment to hard facts endeared him to millions of Americans. But he also became a villain to millions of others.
Trump supporters chanted “Fire Fauci,” and the president mused openly about doing so.
He was accused of inventing the virus and of being part of a secret cabal with Bill Gates and George Soros to profit from vaccines. His family received death threats.
On Jan. 21, appearing in his first press briefing under the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci described the “liberating feeling” of once again being able to “get up here and talk about what you know — what the evidence, what the science is — and know that’s it, let the science speak.”
In an hourlong conversation with The New York Times over the weekend, Dr. Fauci described some of the difficulties, and the toll, of working with President Donald J. Trump.
When did you first realize things were going wrong between you and President Trump?
It coincided very much with the rapid escalation of cases in the northeastern part of the country, particularly the New York metropolitan area.
I would try to express the gravity of the situation, and the response of the president was always leaning toward, “Well, it’s not that bad, right?”
And I would say, “Yes, it is that bad.” It was almost a reflex response, trying to coax you to minimize it. Not saying, “I want you to minimize it,” but, “Oh, really, was it that bad?”
And the other thing that made me really concerned was, it was clear that he was getting input from people who were calling him up, I don’t know who, people he knew from business, saying, “Hey, I heard about this drug, isn’t it great?” or, “Boy, this convalescent plasma is really phenomenal.”
And I would try to, you know, calmly explain that you find out if something works by doing an appropriate clinical trial; you get the information, you give it a peer review. And he’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this stuff really works.”
He would take just as seriously their opinion — based on no data, just anecdote — that something might really be important. It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative-medicine-type approaches.
It was always, “A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.” That’s when my anxiety started to escalate.
Did you have any problems with him in the first three years of his presidency?
No, he barely knew who I was …
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