The scariest thing Anthony Fauci said about Trump

President Trump made false claims about possible treatments for the coronavirus, and expert Dr. Anthony Fauci had to tamp down optimism about the treatments at a press conference.

In a matter of just weeks, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci has become something of a comfort blanket for many Americans.

Amid the ups and downs of President Donald Trump’s reactions to the coronavirus epidemic, Fauci has been a steady, calming and honest presence about the nature and extent of the threat to American lives.

Which brings me to something Fauci said about Trump in a remarkably candid interview with Science Magazine on Sunday. Here’s the exchange (bolding mine):

Reporter: You’ve been in press conferences where things are happening that you disagree with, is that fair to say?

Fauci: Well, 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.

Now, Fauci is being as polite as he can be here. But make no mistake, what he’s saying is this: Trump says things at these daily coronavirus task force press conferences that are not true.

That’s a very, very bad thing.

Whether it’s his claims that the FDA had approved an anti-malarial vaccine to be used to treat coronavirus (they hadn’t), his insistence that things are getting better (the US surgeon general said Monday “this week it’s going to get bad“) or his claim that GM and Ford are making ventilators (they aren’t), there’s a demonstrated pattern of untruth here by the President.

Which, in normal circumstances, is bad. But in a crisis like the one caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the ability to trust our leaders is paramount.

If the President is expressing himself in ways that “could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject” (in Fauci’s words) then the possibility of misinformation being pushed to the public is high. And that misinformation could cost lives.

The Point: Trump’s casual relationship with the truth isn’t new. But these circumstances are. And they make what he is doing much more dangerous.

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