President Trump accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of being a "Democrat" during a political rally on Thursday, his latest salvo against the top infectious diseases expert.
Fauci has been blunt about how the White House has handled the coronavirus pandemic, calling the White House ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett that's believed to have caused a West Wing outbreak a "super spreader" event and blasting the Trump campaign for. The president, speaking to supporters in North Carolina, questioned the efficacy of masks and criticized Fauci's handling of the pandemic, even as he also referred to him as a "nice guy."
"You know they keep saying nobody wears masks, wear the masks. Although then they come out with things today, did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the mask catch it. OK?" the president said. "And then you have my friend and he's a nice guy Tony, Tony Fauci. He's a nice guy. He said, 'This is not a threat, this is not a problem; don't worry about it — it's not a problem. It's the craziest thing.' Then, he said, 'Do not wear a mask — do not wear a mask under any circumstances. Don't wear a mask don't, don't, don't,' right?"
"So, we don't wear them. Then they say, 'Oh, wear a mask,'" the president continued. "I never saw, do you ever see any conflicts? But he's a nice guy so I keep him around, right? He's a Democrat — everybody knows that. He's [Governor Andrew] Cuomo's friend."
Fauci has worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations since 1984, and keeps his politics close to his vest, though he has enjoyed positive relationships with several presidents. In fact, President George H.W. Bush, asked during a debate, replied, "I think of Dr. Fauci," citing his work on AIDS.
President Trump and his supporters have clashed with Fauci at times, most recently when he was used in a pro-Trump ad without his permission. Fauci said the Trump campaign was "harassing" him with the unauthorized ad.
"By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me," he told The Daily Beast in a report posted on Monday.
Fauci continues to push for caution, mask-wearing and social distancing, while the president, even after his hospitalization with COVID-19, expresses frustration with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
In an interview with CBS News Wednesday, he advised Americans to consider alternate holiday plans this season.
"I think given the fluid and dynamic nature of what's going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition,". "Namely, you may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you're pretty certain that the people that you're dealing with are not infected."