But at 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is in the thick of one of the biggest battles of 35 years in the role: The race to contain coronavirus when the nation is deeply polarized and misinformation can spread with one tweet — sometimes, from the president himself.

“You should never destroy your own credibility. And you don’t want to go to war with a president,” Fauci, who has been the country’s top infectious diseases expert through a dozen outbreaks and six presidents, told POLITICO in an interview Friday. “But you got to walk the fine balance of making sure you continue to tell the truth.”

And the truth about coronavirus? “I don’t think that we are going to get out of this completely unscathed,” he said. “I think that this is going to be one of those things we look back on and say boy, that was bad.”