When reporters asked about their disagreements, Trump said Fauci was wrong and unreliable. This undercut the president’s simultaneous boasts that Fauci agreed with him on some questions. In an ABC News town hall on Sept. 15, Trump bragged: “Dr. Fauci said that we we’ve done a really good job, and we didn’t mislead anybody. He came out with that statement, which I appreciate. But whether it’s Dr. Fauci or anybody else, a lot of people got it wrong.” Trump didn’t seem to notice or care that his third sentence gutted his first…

Fauci bent over backward not to quarrel with the president. He corrected Trump’s falsehoods only when he was asked, and he avoided criticizing the president by name. But a week and a half ago, Trump forced his hand. In a TV ad, Trump’s campaign took a statement Fauci had made about public health officials—“I can’t imagine … that anybody could be doing more”—and misrepresented it as statement about Trump. When Fauci cried foul at this misrepresentation and demanded that he be removed from the ad, Trump, instead of complying, stood by the ad. “They are indeed Dr. Fauci’s own words,” the president tweeted.

Having pitted his credibility against Fauci’s, Trump then made things worse. On Friday, at a rally in Georgia, the president complained that Biden “said the other day, he’ll follow science. So that means if Fauci says, ‘Close it up,’ he’s going to close up the country.” On Monday, at his rally in Arizona, Trump sneered that Biden “wants to listen to Dr. Fauci.” A week that began with Trump’s campaign faking an endorsement by Fauci ended with Trump implying that Fauci was on Biden’s team.