Trump retweets "FireFauci" hashtag after top scientist appears to contradict him

Fauci under fire after contradicting Trump
Fauci under fire after contradicting Trump 02:15

Last Updated Apr 13, 2020 2:12 PM EDT

The government's top infectious disease expert may be under pressure for appearing to contradict President Trump. Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested lives could have been saved if the president had acted sooner on warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

It started when The New York Times reported that the president was warned about a pandemic at the end of January, and that top officials wanted to implement social distancing in February.

Fauci seemed to corroborate that on Sunday when he said lives could have been saved if the U.S. had promoted social distancing in February.

"I mean, obviously, if we had — right from the very beginning — shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different," Fauci told CNN. "But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then."

On Twitter late Sunday night, the president pushed back against The New York Times story as "fake news," and re-tweeted a tweet that included the hashtag #FireFauci.

That same tweet included a reference to a February 29 press conference where Fauci claimed the U.S. was overall at low risk — even though Fauci also said the situation was changing.

CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid reports that over the past few days, and as recently as Monday morning, the president has been calling associates seeking their input on how soon he should open the economy and asking what they think of Dr. Fauci. 

In a statement provided to CBS News, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said:

"This media chatter is ridiculous — President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci. The President's tweet clearly exposed media attempts to maliciously push a falsehood about his China decision in an attempt to rewrite history. It was Democrats and the media who ignored Coronavirus choosing to focus on impeachment instead, and when they finally did comment on the virus it was to attack President Trump for taking the bold decisive action to save American lives by cutting off travel from China and from Europe. Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump."

Looking ahead to re-opening the country for business, Fauci cautioned that there would not be a one-size-fits-all approach, but said the government would assess different areas at the end of the month and determine whether it could start to ease restrictions in some ways.