WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump called coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci a “disaster” on Monday and sought to reassure campaign workers he still has a path to victory on Election Day, 15 days away.
Trump and Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have been at odds over how best to handle a pandemic that has killed more than 219,000 people in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci has openly complained about being cited in a Trump reelection campaign advertisement.
“Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” Trump said on a call with campaign workers which the campaign allowed reporters to join.
Speaking from his signature hotel in Las Vegas ahead of two rallies in Arizona, Trump said Americans were fed up with pandemic restrictions.
“People are saying, ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” said Trump, whose rallies include many supporters not wearing masks and standing shoulder to shoulder at odds with the guidance of Fauci and other public health experts.
“Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years,” Trump added.
Fauci, 79, is one of the most respected scientists in the United States and has served under Republican and Democratic presidents. He has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
“Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb,” Trump said. “but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.”
Trump took his frustration out on Fauci midway through a call intended to buck up his national team of campaign workers amid a spate of stories suggesting a campaign in turmoil. With nearly two weeks to go until Election Day, Democrat Joe Biden holds a lead or slight advantage in several battleground states, according to the latest NewsNation/Emerson polls.
“We have momentum at the exact time that we want momentum,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said on the call.
Trump said he felt he was in a better position now than four years ago when he scored a victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt,” he said.
Biden issued a statement about the phone call and comments about Fauci.
“Coronavirus infections are spiking across the country, but President Trump decided to attack Dr. Fauci again today as a ‘disaster’ and call public health experts ‘idiots’ instead of laying out a plan to beat this virus or heeding their advice about how we can save lives and get our economy moving again. President Trump even criticized me yesterday for listening to the scientists — that’s not an attack, that’s a badge of honor,” Biden said.
Listen to the phone call in the audio player at the top of this story.
Transcription of President Trump’s Phone Call
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, these people. These people that have got it wrong. Fauci’s a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong and he’s like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage selling us out. He said, do not wear facemasks, that’s a couple of months ago. He said, do not close it up with China. I have a list of 15 things, this guy, and yet we keep him. Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. Fauci is a disaster, I mean this guy, if I listened to him we’d have 500,000 deaths. And let me tell you one other thing, we saved 2.2 million people. If we didn’t do what we did and close and just right now we’re opening it again. But we would never close it again, It would never, close it will never close again because we know the disease. With Fauci, if we listen to him., we’d have 700-800 thousand deaths right now. So with that, I get along with him. If there’s a reporter on you can have it just the way I said, I couldn’t care less.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
Full Statement from Joe Biden
Coronavirus infections are spiking across the country, but President Trump decided to attack Dr. Fauci again today as a ‘disaster’ and call public health experts ‘idiots’ instead of laying out a plan to beat this virus or heeding their advice about how we can save lives and get our economy moving again. President Trump even criticized me yesterday for listening to the scientists — that’s not an attack, that’s a badge of honor.
Waving a white flag and saying “it is what it is” is unacceptable when thousands of American lives are being taken each week, when businesses are closing and schools remain shuttered. The American people have never backed down from a challenge, but they need a leader to show the way and all President Trump has done is cower and wallow in self-pity.
Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: the American people are tired. They’re tired of your lies about this virus. They’re tired of watching more Americans die and more people lose their jobs because you refuse to take this pandemic seriously. Now, more than ever, we need a leader to bring us together, put a plan in place, and beat this virus — but you have proven yourself yet again to be incapable of doing that.
FMR. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.