Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, right, and President Donald Trump listen as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Fauci says he can't stop Trump from talking at briefings

March 23, 2020 - 6:49 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he can't jump in front of the microphone to stop President Donald Trump from speaking at daily White House briefings on the coronavirus outbreak.

The nation's top infectious disease expert tells Science magazine in an interview that Trump listens “even though we disagree on some things.”

“He goes his own way. He has his own style,” Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in the telephone interview with the magazine on Sunday. “But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”

Trump complained at a recent briefing that China should have told the world about the virus much earlier. The new coronavirus originated in China. Fauci says he told the "appropriate people” after Trump made the comment that “it doesn't comport, because two or three months earlier would have been September.”

Fauci said that Trump's aides may caution him against repeating the statement but that if the president chooses to say it again, “I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down.”

Trump and Fauci sparred politely but publicly last week over whether a malaria drug would work to treat people with the coronavirus disease.

Asked about being present when things are said that he disagrees with, Fauci said: “I don't disagree in the substance. It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.”

Twitter notices when Fauci isn't present for the briefings.

On Friday, the doctor put a hand over his face when Trump injected a conspiracy theory into the proceeding by referring to the State Department as the “Deep State Department.”

Fauci's brief hand movement and facial expression became an internet meme.

Asked if he'd been criticized for it, Fauci said “no comment.”

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