The White House on Monday said that talk of President Donald Trump wants to fire the government’s top medical specialist in the coronavirus crisis, Anthony Fauci, was “ridiculous.”
Rumours that Fauci could get the axe — as a vocal group of Trump’s right-wing supporters want — accelerated on Sunday when the president retweeted criticism of the doctor with the hashtag #FireFauci.
“This media chatter is ridiculous – President Trump is not firing Dr Fauci,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
“Dr Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.”
Fauci is widely considered one of the most trusted faces in the Trump administration’s fight against the pandemic. As a longtime expert in similar health crises, Fauci is winning plaudits for his no-nonsense and apolitical interviews with the media.
However, his consistent push for strict social distancing and shutting down of much economic activity has sparked resistance from Republicans who believe the COVID-19 crisis is overblown and worry that the paralyzed economy will hurt Trump’s reelection chances.
Conspiracy theories spread widely on social media suggest that Fauci is even a Democratic plant.
Gidley said that the purpose of Trump’s retweet was simply to defend himself against “media attempts to maliciously push a falsehood” about the government’s alleged slow response to the pandemic.
“It was Democrats and the media who ignored Coronavirus,” Gidley said. Trump, by contrast, took “bold decisive action to save American lives by cutting off travel from China and from Europe.”
Gidley did not directly explain the president’s decision to include the #FireFauci hashtag.