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October 23, 2020 at 2:05 AM EDT
Trump defends his attacks on Anthony Fauci
By Colby Itkowitz and Salvador Rizzo
In the final presidential debate of the 2020 campaign, Trump on Thursday night defended his frequent attacks on Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, claiming he gets along well with him, but then repeated the misleading characterization of Fauci’s early remarks on mask-wearing and accused him of being partisan.
“I’m not knocking him. Nobody, no, look, nobody knew what this thing was. Nobody knew where it was coming from, what it was,” Trump said. “So he’s allowed to make mistakes. He happens to be a good person.”
“I get along very well with Anthony, but he did say don’t wear masks. He did say, as you know, this is not going to be a problem. I think he’s a Democrat, but that’s okay. He said this is not going to be a problem. We are not going to have a problem at all,” Trump said.
Several days ago, Trump said that people were tired of the coronavirus and of “hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
Trump has claimed repeatedly and without evidence that Fauci is a Democrat. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations since 1984. His voter registration shows he is an independent, not a Democrat or Republican.
As for Trump’s claim that Fauci advised people not to wear masks, some important context is missing.
Fauci said he advised against masks at first because of early fears that N95 masks needed by hospital workers would quickly run out of stock. Once science indicated that the virus was spread by people who were asymptomatic, the guidance was updated, because even fabric masks can help halt the spread if everyone wears them. (Trump has claimed falsely that 85 percent of mask-wearers catch the coronavirus.)
Fauci also never said anything like “this is not going to be a problem.” He spoke as a scientist, evaluating the data in front of him. From the start, he warned of the need to be vigilant.
On Jan. 20, Fauci told CNN: “It really is an evolving situation, and we have to be prepared for the worst.”