Donald Trump‘s re-election campaign released its first advertisement addressing the president’s COVID-19 infection, but the video uses a quote from Anthony Fauci misleadingly to make it appear he praises Trump’s response to the pandemic.
The Trump campaign ad aired during the NBA Finals Friday night. The ad touts Trump for “sparing no expense” and getting senior citizens “life saving drugs in record time.” A brief video clip in the ad portrays Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, discussing the amount of hours that he personally (not Trump) was putting in at the beginning of the pandemic.
The Fauci quote, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more,” comes from a March interview on the Fox News show Life, Liberty and Levin. In the interview, Fauci discussed the hours he and other member of the Task Force—of which Trump was not a member—in response to the virus outbreak in the United States.
The show is hosted by ardent Trump supporter and frequent conspiracy theorist Mark Levin.
“Have you ever seen this big of a coordinated response by an administration, to such a threat, a health threat?” Levin asked Fauci, prompting the doctor to detail the long hours he’d personally been working since the start of the pandemic just a few weeks before the interview.
“The coordinated response has been, there’s a lot of adjectives to describe it, impressive I think, I mean we’re talking about all hands on deck,” Fauci told Levin.
“I, as one of many people on a team, I’m not the only person, since the beginning when we even recognized what this was, I have been devoting almost full-time on this. I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the Task Force,” Fauci said. “I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night and I’m talking 12-1-2 in the morning. I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that, it’s every single day.”
“So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more,” Fauci added, providing the quote used out of context by the Trump campaign this week. “Obviously we’re fighting a formidable enemy, this virus is a serious issue here.”
Fauci does not mention Trump specifically at any point leading up to the quote, and appears to reference the hours being put in by himself and other Task Force members. Trump was not a member of the pandemic response team, which is officially led by Vice President Mike Pence.
The narrator of the Trump for President campaign ad released this week praises Trump for his pandemic response before highlighting Fauci’s quote without context: “President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America. Together, we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them life saving drugs in record time, sparing no expense. President Trump tackled the virus head-on as leaders should.”
Fauci has drawn the ridicule of Trump supporters as well as the president himself in the nearly seven months since the start of the pandemic. In August, Fauci testified before a House subcommittee investigating the administration’s handling of the coronavirus. Trump called Fauci’s testimony “wrong” and accused him of being an “alarmist” after it was revealed in several polls that Fauci had a higher approval rating than the president himself.
Show host Levin has also sought to discredit Fauci in recent months, mocking him at times for out-of-context images which appear to show Fauci not social distancing.
Trump can be heard personally endorsing the message at the conclusion of the advertisement. The ad urges Americans to not be afraid of coronavirus.
Fauci, who was appointed director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 1984, has routinely offered criticism of Trump’s pandemic response, particularly his downplaying of its seriousness and mocking reporters and former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing masks. Last week, Fauci told CBS News Radio that Trump has created “confusion” among Americans for constantly touting coronavirus treatments as “cures.”
Fauci labeled Trump administration members, many of whom have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, “superspreaders” of COVID-19.
Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign as well as the NIAID offices in Washington for additional remarks Saturday morning.
There have been more than 7.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infections across the U.S., with more than 210,000 deaths tied to COVID-19.