That Wednesday, the president used the day’s news conference by the coronavirus task force, with Dr. Fauci alongside him, to lie to the public. “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” he told the American public. He and Mr. Azar would continue to make such assurances over the next two days — Mr. Azar in remarks before lawmakers and the president in statements from the White House and bellowed at political rallies.
At the end of the five days, Dr. Fauci spoke on the “Today” show in public messaging that would later become controversial. The question was put to him in terms Americans could easily appreciate: “So, Dr. Fauci, it’s Saturday morning in America. People are waking up right now with real concerns about this. They want to go to malls and movies, maybe the gym as well. Should we be changing our habits and, if so, how?” Dr. Fauci offered a nuanced reply: “No. Right now, at this moment, there’s no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day by day basis. Right now the risk is still low.” He added, however, that this could change.
Dr. Fauci might now regret how he tried to thread the needle, but he also knew to expect the question and he repeated the party line.
In effect, for five days, the president along with some of his closest senior officials disseminated an egregiously false message to Americans.