Donald Trump has promoted a tweet calling for the firing of Dr Anthony Fauci, after the White House’s top infectious diseases expert suggested the US president cost lives by delaying social distancing measures.
Amid an escalating coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 22,000 people in the US alone, Dr Fauci appeared to confirm details of a bombshell New York Times report which described the bungling response to the crisis by Mr Trump and senior aides.
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper why the administration failed to act in mid-February when he and other officials advised measures to slow the spread of the virus, Dr Fauci said: “You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint.
“We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it’s not. But we – it is what it is. We are where we are right now.”
In a rambling overnight Twitter tirade, Mr Trump reacted furiously to the Times’ report.
After a series of complaints about the “Lamestream Media”, Mr Trump shared a tweet by DeAnna Lorraine, a Republican former California congressional candidate, which read: “Fauci is now saying that had Trump listened to the medical experts earlier he could’ve saved more lives.
“Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US public at large.
“Time to #FireFauci.”
There is no evidence Dr Fauci played down the disease’s threat in February.
Alongside the message, Mr Trump himself tweeted: “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up.”
The tweet was the president’s most public message yet about his reported growing frustration with Dr Fauci, who has become a hated figure among some on the far-right for his occasional public contradictions of Mr Trump’s misinformation about the virus.
And despite the suggestion he failed to support the travel restrictions placed on China, Dr Fauci had by the end of January told the White House he supported the move, which came into effect on 2 February.
Late on Friday, following his complaint about Dr Fauci, Mr Trump tweeted: “I am working hard to expose the corruption and dishonesty in the Lamestream Media. That part is easy, the hard part is WHY?”
He later added: “The @nytimes story is a Fake, just like the ‘paper’ itself. I was criticized for moving too fast when I issued the China Ban, long before most others wanted to do so.”
Despite Mr Trump’s repeated claim his China travel ban saved thousands of lives and is evidence he has adequately handled the crisis, experts have said the little evidence there is suggests the move at best delayed the spread of Covid-19 – time his administration failed to use by delaying social distancing measures and widespread testing.