President Donald Trump suggested Sunday that he may act to remove Dr. Anthony Fauci from his position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after the election.
The president hinted at the move after supporters spontaneously broke out into a "Fire Fauci!" chant at a campaign rally in Opa-Locka, Florida, Sunday night.
"Don't tell anybody, but let me wait 'til a little bit after the election," Trump told the crowd as the chant faded. "I appreciate the advice, I appreciate the advice. No, he's been wrong on a lot. He's a nice man, though. He's been wrong on a lot."
Trump then went to criticize Fauci's credibility, reminding the crowd that the public health expert advised against wearing masks and shutting down travel from China early on during the coronavirus pandemic, two positions he would later flip on.
#BREAKING: President Trump hints he'll fire Dr. Fauci following the election. Crowd at Trump rally chant, "Fire Fa… https://t.co/F6cH3M6R2u— The Hill (@The Hill)1604295426.0
Trump and Fauci have shared a tenuous working relationship since the start of the pandemic, as the two have often sparred over how best to lead the American people. As Trump has repeatedly insisted that the country needs to open up and recover economically, Fauci has been a consistent voice for the continued implementation of of social distancing measures.
The health expert said recently that even with the development and distribution of a vaccine, masks and social distancing should likely continue until 2022. More recently he forecast that the country was "in for a whole lot of hurt" in the coming months.
It's not a good situation," he told the Washington Post over the weekend. "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly."
Earlier this month, the president called Fauci a "disaster" during a campaign call.
"People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies. 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," Trump said.
"Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths," he added. "If there's a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less."
It was not immediately clear whether the president was serious about firing Fauci, who has led the NIAID since 1985, or whether he was just playing to the crowd. Such an action would not necessarily come as a surprise since the president has shown a willingness to remove top public officials.
The move to fire Fauci, however, may not play particularly well in the polls, as Fauci still enjoys high favorability ratings among Americans.