Career government bureaucrat Dr. Anthony Fauci went on a PR offensive this week, pushing back against officials in the White House who have tried to sideline him for repeatedly giving bad advice since the onset of the COVID-19 China coronavirus pandemic this year. Fauci did livestream interviews with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Georgetown University, a TV interview with PBS and he posed for a cover shoot for InStyle magazine that accompanies a softball interview with his old Beltway insider friend Norah O’Donnell. The 79-year-old Fauci told O’Donnell he has no plans to step down because, “with all due modesty, I think I’m pretty effective.”
Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has worked for the NIH for decades, serving since 1984 as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The InStyle interview of Fauci and his wife Dr. Christine Grady was conducted by O’Donnell, who noted she has known the couple for years and lives in the same neighborhood with them. The interview and cover photo for the September issue were published online Wednesday. Fauci was photograohed at his D.C. area home swimming pool wearing dark shades.
NEW: We spoke to Dr. Fauci earlier this week for @InStyle – he told us: "I don’t like to be pitted against the president. It’s pretty tough walking a tightrope while trying to get your message out and people are trying to pit you against the president." https://t.co/HtGhrp6hK6
— Norah O'Donnell 🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) July 16, 2020
Fauci’s cover shoot for InStyle and interview by O’Donnell was an apparent end-run around the Trump administration which is limiting Fauci’s TV interviews. O’Donnell, anchor of the CBS Evening News, told Fauci that requests to interview him on her show have been turned down over a dozen times.
…I’ve known Dr. Fauci and his wife, bioethicist Dr. Christine Grady, for years as frequent guests at my husband’s restaurant – these days mostly for takeout. It’s also not uncommon to see them out on their daily walks through the neighborhood. I caught up with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Grady on Tuesday to talk about when he expects a vaccine, his relationship with President Trump, and how the two of them are staying healthy and grounded during the coronavirus pandemic.
Norah O’Donnell: How are you guys?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Given what’s going on in the world, we’re OK.
Christine Grady: How are you?
NO: I’m doing well! This will be our first time in InStyle magazine together.
A F: Oh, good! Another first!
…NO: It’s been recently reminded to us by the White House that you advised against people wearing masks in public, and, of course, that was due to the surge because the concern was about saving PPEs for medical professionals. Do you regret that comment?
A F: No. I don’t regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct. We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs and masks for the health providers who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of sick people. That’s what the dialogue was in the task force meetings, which led all of us, not just me but also [U.S. Surgeon General] Jerome Adams, to say, “Right now we really need to save the masks for the people who need them most.” When it became clear that the infection could be spread by asymptomatic carriers who don’t know they’re infected, that made it very clear that we had to strongly recommend masks. And also, it soon became clear that we had enough protective equipment and that cloth masks and homemade masks were as good as masks that you would buy from surgical supply stores. So in the context of when we were not strongly recommending it, it was the correct thing. But our knowledge changed and our realization of the state of the outbreak changed…
…NO: And how long do you see yourself at the NIAID?
A F: I don’t see any termination within the near future because I judge [my career] by my energy and my effectiveness. And right now, with all due modesty, I think I’m pretty effective. I certainly am energetic. And I think everybody thinks I’m doing more than an outstanding job. I have a wife with incredibly good judgment, who will probably give me the signal when it’s time to step down. But I don’t think we’re anywhere near that right now.
NO: And is that role determined by the president and the White House?
A F: No.
NO: You can’t be fired from that role?
A F: No….
On Wednesday, Fauci did a nearly one hour remote speaking engagement with Georgetown University that was streamed live on YouTube and carried by C-SPAN.
On Thursday, Fauci did a livestreamed interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that also lasted nearly an hour.
The PR offensive apparently paid off, with Fauci speaking with President Trump on Thursday, the first time since June 2nd that they have spoken with each other.
JUST IN: Dr. Fauci tells me he spoke with President Trump yesterday by phone. Their first conversation since June 2nd. He would not reveal what they discussed. @CBSNews
— Paula Reid (@PaulaReidCNN) July 16, 2020
On Friday, Fauci did an TV interview with PBS NewsHour in which he praised New York for dealing with the pandemic.
“…We know that, when you do it properly, you bring down those cases. We have done it. We have done it in New York. New York got hit worse than any place in the world. And they did it correctly by doing the things that you’re talking about.”