In the case of Anthony Fauci vs. Donald Trump, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) doctor and the media say the Trump campaign is running an ad that takes Dr. Fauci’s words in vain. Readers can decide, so let’s go to the videotape.
The 30-second Trump ad released last week says “President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America” and goes on to note “together we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them life-saving drugs in record time.” It then features Dr. Fauci saying “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”
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The quote was pulled from a Fox News interview in late March when Dr. Fauci was asked if he had ever seen as large a public response by an Administration to such a health threat. He responded: “We’ve never had a threat like this, and the coordinated response, and there are a number of adjectives to describe this, impressive, I think is one of them. We’re talking about all hands on deck.”
He went on to detail the White House coronavirus task force’s ’round-the-clock phone calls and meetings. “So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more,” he concluded.
Dr. Fauci nonetheless took umbrage at his appearance in the Trump ad. “In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,” he told CNN. “The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.”
Campaigns aren’t required to get permission to use his public statements. A Democratic Super Pac has run ads using such Fauci statements as the testing “system is not really geared to what we need right now” and “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline” spliced side-by-side with cheerier statements by Mr. Trump.
The Administration has made mistakes in fighting the virus, but as Dr. Fauci noted in the Fox interview it also mobilized an unprecedented effort. It surged ventilators and built field hospitals in hard-hit states while accelerating therapies and vaccines. On Feb. 4 the Administration signed a deal with Regeneron to develop a monoclonal antibody treatment that may soon be available to hundreds of thousands of Americans. By mid-February, Moderna and NIH were working on a vaccine.
Democrats say that if Mr. Trump had listened to scientists in the spring, the U.S. would have vanquished the virus. But he did listen, following advice to lock down the country for more than a month with destructive economic effect. The irony of this election may be that Mr. Trump listened to Dr. Fauci too much on lockdowns.
Joe Biden and Democrats are now blaming the President for the economic damage from lockdowns that they still support and say were too quickly eased. Europe waited longer to reopen yet is still experiencing a second virus wave, which in some countries is as large, if not as deadly, as the first. Scientists aren’t infallible, and they can’t command the virus tides any more than politicians can.
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Appeared in the October 13, 2020, print edition.