COVID-19: Dr Anthony Fauci reveals reality of working with Donald Trump

Dr Fauci and Donald Trump.
Dr Fauci and Donald Trump. Photo credit: Getty

Former President Donald Trump would repeatedly attempt to downplay the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic and refused to accept facts he personally didn't agree with, leading US public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci has revealed in a candid interview.

Dr Fauci, who has served as the Chief Medical Advisor to seven Presidents and has directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, was one of the key members of the Trump administration's White House coronavirus task force, established in January last year. 

The 80-year-old rose to international prominence for his calm commentary and counsel on America's ongoing epidemic, demonstrating his commitment to facts and science - despite the former President's desperate bid to shroud the devastation with a "positive attitude" and downright "nonsense". 

However, his direct contradictions of Trump's agenda did not appeal to all Americans, with supporters of the former President campaigning for the official's dismissal - a prospect Trump flirted with, but never enacted. It also resulted in multiple death threats against Dr Fauci, and the harassment of his wife and children.

Speaking to the New York Times, Dr Fauci reiterated that Trump was determined not to recognise the severity of the rapidly escalating situation, and had little patience for the cold, hard facts.

"I would try to express the gravity of the situation, and the response of the president was always leaning toward, 'Well, it's not that bad, right?' And I would say, 'Yes, it is that bad'. It was almost a reflex response, trying to coax you to minimise it," Dr Fauci explained to the New York Times.

"We would say things like: 'This is an outbreak. Infectious diseases run their own course unless one does something to intervene'. And then he would get up and start talking about, 'It's going to go away, it's magical, it's going to disappear'."

Dr Fauci also revealed that Trump - who was officially succeeded by incumbent President Joe Biden on January 20 - would accept blatant opinions while ignoring scientific fact, referencing his infamous backing of unproven treatments including bleach, ultraviolet light and the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

"It was clear that he was getting input from people who were calling him up... people he knew from business, saying, 'Hey, I heard about this drug, isn’t it great?'... based on no data, just anecdote[s]." 

Dr Fauci did acknowledge that Trump rarely - if ever - became visibly upset by the health expert's refusal to publicly back his commentary, but noted a few occasions where the former President had become frustrated by their clashes in outlook.

"The President would call me up and say, 'Hey, why aren't you more positive? You've got to take a positive attitude. Why are you so negativistic? Be more positive'," he shared.

However, he told the New York Times he never considered quitting, reiterating his commitment to keeping the public informed.

"Even if I wasn’t very effective in changing everybody’s minds, the idea that they knew that nonsense could not be spouted without my pushing back on it, I felt was important."

More than 25 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the US and close to 420,000 people have died from the virus.