The anti-Trump media outlets like MSNBC and the New York Times spread the false story that Dr. Anthony Fauci was being muzzled by Vice-President Pence in his efforts on information dissemination about the COVID-19 epidemic. The New York Times quoted Fauci as saying the White House instructed him not to say anything without clearance.
Dr. Fauci told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that the quote was “misconstrued”. He is not being muzzled.
Vice-President Pence was chosen by President Trump to head up the coordination of the administration’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic. During Trump’s press conference at the White House Saturday, both he and Fauci denied any muzzling was happening.
“That’s a very dishonest question, because he has had that ability to do virtually whatever he’s wanted to do,” Trump said when asked at a White House briefing if he was muzzling Fauci. “He was never muzzled.”
But Trump not only denied the claim, but also brought up Fauci to address the reports.
“I have never been muzzled ever and I’ve been doing this since the administration of Ronald Reagan, I’m not being muzzled by this administration,” Fauci said.
He said he followed normal procedure when the vice-president took over the operation.
He said he was set up to go on TV shows, but when Vice President Mike Pence was appointed to lead the efforts against the global virus, he stood down from those appearances as they regrouped. He says he then reapplied for clearance to go on the shows and was approved.
“So I have not been muzzled at all, that was a real misrepresentation of what happened,” he said.
In his capacity as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci is the perfect point person on COVID-19 updates. He is 79 years old, not prone to dramatic statements, and he is very professional in his public demeanor. In other words, he has been around and knows when to panic and when not to panic. This isn’t the time to panic, according to the information available to him. He specifically made a point to calm nerves and state to the White House press during President Trump’s press conference Saturday that most people will not be required to be hospitalized if they contact COVID-19. The symptoms will be such that otherwise healthy people can stay home and treat the symptoms like they would the flu or a bad cold. He said there are occasional outliers who may die from the disease, like a normally healthy young person, but those cases are very rare. The patients who will be hit hardest and may require hospitalization are the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
It’s important that the Trump administration officials speak with one voice. Fauci goes through the same procedure as anyone else from the administration who may be making television appearances – he gets approval. Everyone is on the same page. When President Trump held the press conference Saturday, he was accompanied by Pence, HHS Secretary Azar, as well as officials from the CDC and NIH, besides Fauci. That is also important because each can address specific questions from the press. Fauci is a frequent guest on all the networks, answering questions on COVID-19.
Going forward President Trump said he would be holding regular press conferences with the other administration officials, perhaps daily. That is exactly the right approach to take. People just want some answers to questions about a virus that can quickly spread. As came out today, people should be more concerned about the flu than COVID-19, for the most part. Dr. Fauci said that can change but so far the people who are infected are responding to treatment of their symptoms and recovering well. One person’s death was announced, a person in their 50s with a compromised immune system, and the president, along with the other officials expressed their sympathy for the deceased’s family.
Fauci said that lifestyles don’t have to change. Just keep up on the updates and take the same precautions as any cold and flu season requires – especially washing your hands. If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, see a doctor.