In Context: As Trump criticizes, a look back at Fauci’s early coronavirus statements

President Donald Trump claims Dr. Anthony Fauci has "made a lot of mistakes." PolitiFact looks back on Fauci's comments.

July 16, 2020 and
Category: Fact-Checking

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Dr. Anthony Fauci might enjoy the trust of most Americans, but in the White House, not so much.

President Donald Trump recently told Gray TV host Greta Van Susteren that he didn’t agree with Fauci.

“Dr. Fauci said don’t wear masks, and now he says wear them,” Trump said July 7. “He said numerous things. Don’t close off China. Don’t ban China. I did it anyway.”

Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity July 9, “Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.”

On July 11, The Washington Post reported that White House staff released a statement saying that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.”

The Post said the statement included a long list of Fauci’s alleged errors. Among them, doubt that people without symptoms could play a significant role in spreading the virus, and a late February comment that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.”

Some of the criticisms of Fauci focus on statements that came when little was known about the disease. You might remember in May, I called out a YouTube channel that uploaded an old clip of Fauci saying masks were not necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as if it was new — the video segment was from more than two months earlier. (By the way, I did finally hear back from the user who uploaded it, who said: “Personally I don’t have an opinion on Dr. Fauci, good or bad.”)

Other criticisms overlook the caveats he included with his reassuring words.

Fauci’s comments also came in the context of Trump, who offered a drumbeat of encouragement. In mid-February, Trump said “we’re in very good shape,” and near the end of the month that “the coronavirus is very much under control.”

PolitiFact has fact-checked several misleading claims about what Fauci has said. Here is a summary of Fauci in his own words on the travel ban, wearing masks, the size of the threat, and the risk of asymptomatic transmission

Click here to read more.

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at amahadevan@poynter.org or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.