President Donald Trump went off on Dr. Anthony Fauci on a campaign call Monday, calling him a "nice guy" but also a "disaster" and saying that most Americans are tired of hearing about the coronavirus.
CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was given access to the phone call, during which Trump reportedly claimed that if his administration had listened to Fauci, more than half a million people would have died.
"People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies," Trump said. "People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots ... Fauci is a nice guy. He's been here for 500 years."
"Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths," he added, going on to say it would be 700,000 or 800,000. "If there's a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less."
Trump: "Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths," before later saying it would be 700,0… https://t.co/rjjeuvJT8F— Kaitlan Collins (@Kaitlan Collins)1603121353.0
According to New York Post Washington correspondent Ebony Bowden, Trump also said that firing Fauci would be a bombshell story, seeming to imply that doing so before the election would be a bad idea.
President Trump told campaign staff he thought Dr. Anthony Fauci was "a disaster" while indicating he wanted to fir… https://t.co/5PN0tYB9fC— Ebony Bowden (@Ebony Bowden)1603124862.0
Fauci made headlines over the weekend for comments he made on CBS' "60 Minutes," where he said he was "absolutely not" surprised that Trump contracted a coronavirus infection. He said he was concerned after watching the Sept 26. Rose Garden event announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court and noticing that there was "almost nobody wearing a mask."
"'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that's gotta be a problem.' And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event," he said.
He also said that the Trump administration has restricted his media appearances and expressed anger at the Trump campaign for using his remarks in a TV ad. Fauci said his comments were taken out of context and emphasized that he has not and will not publicly endorse any political candidate for office.
On the effectiveness of wearing masks to slow the spread of the disease, Fauci claimed that "masks really do work in preventing infection." He admitted he was wrong when he said in March there was "no reason to be walking around with a mask."
"When you find out you're wrong, it's a manifestation of your honesty to say, 'Hey, I was wrong. I did subsequent experiments and now it's this way,'" Fauci said.
He expressed opposition to calls for a new national lockdown.
"The country is fatigued with restrictions," Fauci said. "So we wanna use public health measures not to get in the way of opening the economy, but to being a safe gateway to opening the economy."
Over 8.1 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S. More than 200,000 Americans have died.