This weekend, Donald Trump called his infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci into question by re-tweeting the hashtag #FireFauci.
The jab at Dr. Fauci was an apparent response to remarks the Doctor made in a CNN interview. He noted that more lives could have been saved if earlier action had been taken— something Mr. Trump took as a personal affront.
It’s very difficult to go back and say that. Obviously you should logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier you could have saved lives. Obviously no one is going to deny that.
It’s not quite as obvious as Dr. Fauci believed. His comments angered the President and his supporters, who were quick to jump on the #FireFauci bandwagon.
Notably, Dr. Fauci never directly criticized the President. He even countered the assumption that Donald Trump should have taken his advice to start social distancing back in February, saying there’s more to it than that.
But what goes into those decisions is complicated. […] If we had right from the very beginning shut everything down it may have been a little bit different but there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.
Supporters of Dr. Fauci are hitting back on Twitter with #FireTrump, which has become the second-highest trending hashtag in the U.S.
But it seems the damage has already been done— Donald Trump is using his signature strategy: divert attention to a dramatic fight and discredit anyone who’s not on your side.
This time, his assertions that the nation’s leading infectious disease expert is a fraud are dangerous. Many Americans still believe that social distancing isn’t stopping the spread of coronavirus despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
On April 9, Rush Limbaugh penned a blog titled “We’re Owed an Explanation,” slamming Fauci’s decision to lower the expected death toll in the U.S. to 60,000. In it, he claims social distancing isn’t the reason the death projection can be reduced.
There is no way that social distancing made the difference from 240,000 dead projected now down to 60,000 dead
He points to California as evidence for his claims, saying it must be herd immunity that’s kept the state’s death toll comparatively low. But research shows that social distancing is likely a reason for the huge difference between the outbreak in California and that in New York.
Limbaugh says California only issued lockdowns a few days before New York did— but doesn’t address the stark difference in the timing of those orders. California issued a state-wide shelter in place order when total deaths rose to 19 on Mach 19. The San Francisco Bay Area had already been shut down for two days at that point.
In New York, a lockdown came into effect 3 days later. Notably, the death toll at that point had already reached 150.
But Limbaugh, Donald Trump, and the chorus of supporting voices are aiming to discredit Dr. Fauci at any cost because science doesn’t back up their preferred outcome.
Many #FireFauci critics have pointed to the fact that Fauci himself said the coronavirus risk was relatively low in the U.S. Indeed, during a February 29 press briefing, Fauci did say the outbreak, largely confined to Washington, “remain[ed} at low risk.”
But Fauci was also concerned. At the same briefing, he also outlined the dangers of community spread and warned of more cases. In February, when the number of cases in the U.S. was low, and coronavirus’ trajectory was still unclear, medical experts’ suggestions to lockdown may not have been the best choice — Fauci says as much during the CNN interview.
Donald Trump is setting the stage for a scapegoat. He will create a war between himself and whatever fictional enemy will detract from the devastation. This time, the enemy is science, and Mr. Trump’s seeds of mistrust are creating a dangerous precedent in which people learn to believe the President over his own qualified expert advisors.
It allows Trump to give false hope to the stock market with fictional re-opening dates, promote conspiracy theories, and downplay a public health crisis across the world.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.
Last modified: April 13, 2020 2:13 PM UTC