President Donald Trump on Sunday night suggested he would fire Dr. Anthony Fauci "a little after the election"—comments that came after the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the nation's most respected public health experts, criticized the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic in an interview with the Washington Post.
At a late-night rally in Florida, Trump supporters broke into a chant of "Fire Fauci!" after the president complained about news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans this year and is currently spiking in states including Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Iowa.
Wow -- a "Fire Fauci!" chant at the Trump rally
"Let me wait until a little after the election," Trump replies pic.twitter.com/bRHLqzzcRF
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 2, 2020
Trump repeated a baseless claim that the U.S. is "rounding the turn" even as healthcare workers in Wisconsin and Texas worked in field hospitals that have been set up to cope with the influx of Covid-19 patients, before saying the press would "like to talk about Covid and then...November 4, you won't hear too much about it."
"Don't tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election," Trump said in response to the chant, leading the audience to erupt in cheers.
The White House was angered over the weekend by Fauci's interview with the Post, in which the doctor said the U.S. is poorly positioned to confront the pandemic during the winter months, as the president has undermined public health messaging about simple safety precautions people can take to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Fauci called for an "abrupt change" in public health practices, such as adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing, in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, and noted that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been "taking it seriously from a public health perspective" while Trump is focused on reopening the economy regardless of how many people are becoming ill and dying.
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Although the president does not have the authority to dismiss a career civil servant, he signed an executive order last month making it easier for some federal employees to be fired without cause. It's unclear if Fauci's job security could be affected by the order.
A viral video of the rally garnered stunned responses on social media.
Hey Trump just promised to fire Fauci. That seems important, insane, unsurprising, newsworthy, scary, and bad politics.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) November 2, 2020
DISGUSTING—Trump fuels his MAGA rally to chant “Fire Fauci!”
...to which Trump replies—“Let me wait until a little after the election”.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 2, 2020
In every way possible, from his signal he’ll fire Fauci, to attacks on govs, to how he holds his rallies without masks or social distancing, Trump is telling Americans that he has given up on protecting them from the virus. And that that’s what they can expect in a second term https://t.co/WWWY52MlL9
— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) November 2, 2020
Trump's suggestion that he would fire the nation's top public health expert was "quite a closing message as Covid cases spike across the country," tweeted PBS Newshour reporter Yamiche Alcindor.