President Trump attacked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, as “a disaster” on Monday and said, despite experts’ warnings that the nation was headed toward another peak in the coronavirus outbreak, that people were “tired” of hearing about the virus and wanted to be left alone.
The president issued his first broadsides against Dr. Fauci on Monday morning during a call with campaign staff that reporters listened in on, but then amplified them on Twitter and in remarks to reporters after landing in Arizona for a pair of rallies.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong,” Mr. Trump said in the call with campaign staff, which began with his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, talking about the Republican ground game and other factors that he said supported Mr. Trump’s path to victory.
Mr. Trump also called Dr. Fauci a “nice” guy, but he said, “He’s been here for 500 years,” and added, “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy’s a disaster.”
The attack on Dr. Fauci comes as the United States has seen more coronavirus cases — over eight million — and more deaths — nearly 220,000 — than any other nation in the world. The president’s advisers have tried to get him to lay off the infectious disease specialist, who remains popular.
It also comes after Dr. Fauci, in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, dismissed the president’s claim that the end of the pandemic was just around the corner. Dr. Fauci said during the interview that he was not surprised that Mr. Trump had contracted the virus, citing the failure to take basic precautions at White House events, including the announcement last month of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Dr. Fauci said. “When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s got to be a problem.’ And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”
And after “60 Minutes” reported that the Trump administration had restricted Dr. Fauci’s media appearances, Mr. Trump struck back on Twitter. In a pair of tweets, he complained that Dr. Fauci “seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope,” adding, “All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions.”
He continued his criticism of Dr. Fauci after landing in Arizona for the first of two scheduled rallies in the state, which is experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases.
Speaking to reporters after deplaning Air Force One, Mr. Trump called Dr. Fauci “a very nice man” but complained that he “loves being on television” and has made “a lot of bad calls.” Asked why he didn’t fire Dr. Fauci, Mr. Trump said, “He’s been there for about 350 years. I don’t want to hurt him.”
Mr. Trump’s attacks on Dr. Fauci led Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to become the latest Republican to distance himself from the president. “Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants,” said Mr. Alexander, who is retiring this year. “He has served six presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of Covid-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat.”