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'Where's Fauci?': The United States' disease expert returns to TV after tensions with Trump

Dr. Anthony Fauci had not been present at the past two daily coronavirus briefings

Anthony Fauci looks over at Donald Trump during a White House briefing.
Anthony Fauci looks over at Donald Trump during a White House briefing.
Image: Patrick Semansky/PA Images

WHILE DR. TONY Holohan has become Ireland’s reassuring face in a time of crisis, the United States was missing its own expert Tony in recent days.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, was missing at the briefings alongside US President Donald Trump for the last two nights. 

He returned tonight, but not before rumours began to spread of a falling out between the two. 

The briefings themselves have occasionally strayed from bizarre to farcical, with Trump frequently holding court while the medical experts attempt to get a word in. 

Last Friday, Fauci put a hand over his face when Trump injected a conspiracy theory into the proceeding by referring to the State Department as the “Deep State Department.”

Fauci’s brief hand movement and facial expression became an internet meme.

Asked by the magazine Science if he’d been criticised for it, Fauci said, “No comment.”

Trump and Fauci also sparred politely but publicly last week over whether a malaria drug would work to treat people with the coronavirus disease.

Reporters asked both men — first Fauci, then Trump — if a malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine could be used to prevent Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

A day earlier, when Fauci wasn’t with him at that briefing, Trump had called attention to the drug.

On Friday, Fauci took the reporter’s question and got right to the point.

“No,” he said. “The answer … is no.

“The information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal,” Fauci added firmly.

“It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”

But Trump stuck to what his gut was telling him. As the two men took turns at the podium, Trump said he disagreed with the notion that there is no magic drug for the coronavirus disease. “Maybe and maybe not, ” he said. “Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. We have to see.”

He struck an upbeat note, while trying not to directly challenge Fauci.

“I think without seeing too much, I’m probably more of a fan of that,” he said, referring to the malaria drug. “And we all understand what the doctor said is 100% correct.”

Then the president added, “It’s a strong drug. So, we’ll see.”

Trump proudly proclaimed that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the drug for coronavirus treatment only for the FDA chief to come out after the briefing and say this was not the case

Experience

members-of-the-coronavirus-task-force-hold-news-conference NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White House briefing. Source: DPA/PA Images

Fauci has led the US response to every major epidemic since the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980s.

The 79-year-old is of a similar vintage to Trump and both are New Yorkers but that’s where the similarities end. 

Born to Italian-American parents in Brooklyn, Fauci was drawn to health care because of his father, who was a pharmacist. He joined the National Institutes of Health in 1968 and has led it since the mid-1980s. 

In the same Science interview on Sunday, Fauci said that Trump listens to himm “even though we disagree on some things.”

“He goes his own way. He has his own style,” Fauci added. “But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”

Despite this, his absence from the briefings on Sunday and yesterday have caused may to speculate about whether the pair had had a bigger falling out. The concern even garnered its own hashtag, #WhereIsFauci.

Thankfully for Fauci fans however, he returned this evening alongside Trump. 

- With reporting by Associated Press  

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Rónán Duffy

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