During the early days of the pandemic, Fauci publicly contradicted former President Donald Trump on numerous occasions, such as his support for the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. Fauci’s public disagreements with Trump created “hostility” from Trump’s allies, the doctor recounted, in an interview with former Obama administration adviser David Axelrod.
“It was kind of an interesting — in palace intrigue where you had the communication staff of the White House doing opposition research on me,” Fauci said with a laugh on the podcast The Axe Files. “Could you imagine when you were in the White House, David, doing opposition research on one of your staff?”
Trump had drawn criticism during the pandemic for various public musings such as touting hydroxychloroquine, suggesting the pandemic would magically go away, and a controversial statement about treating the virus with bleach — remarks he later insisted were made in jest.
Despite the tensions, Fauci has no regrets for bucking the president.
“I made a decision which cost me. It was the right decision. I’d do it again. I was put in a position that was uncomfortable, but I had to do what I did,” Fauci reflected. “As I’ve said continually, I have a great deal of respect for the office of the Presidency of the United States. And it was not a positive thing for me to be standing there and saying, ‘No, hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work.'”
Fauci also recalled that Trump occasionally engaged in “New York-isms” with him during the tumultuous time.
“Occasionally he did, but you know, it was much more the … outright hostility that was unleashed against me,” Fauci told Axelrod when asked if Trump sniped at him.
During his media tour over recent weeks, Fauci has reflected back on his career and lamented the personal security threats he has weathered, necessitating the need for armed security.
Initially, Fauci had been a widely regarded national hero, lauded by both sides of the political aisle for his decadeslong work in the government combating HIV/AIDS and other outbreaks. However, following the onset of COVID-19, he emerged as a polarizing figure for championing aggressive pandemic suppression measures that rankled conservatives.
From time to time, he appeared to flip-flop on various hot-button issues. For example, in the early stages of the pandemic, he advised the public not to get masks, arguing that they were ineffective for the masses. Later, he reversed course and became a full-throated champion for masking — a reversal he chalked up to the limited supply of masking at the early pandemic stages and newer studies showing their effectiveness.
The doctor has also insisted that he keeps an “open mind” about whether COVID-19 originated from a lab in Wuhan, China, or from natural means — something he downplayed early on and still contends is the less likely origin story for the virus.
Fauci is poised to end a roughly five-decade-long career in government at the end of the month when he steps down as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.