Fauci on why he never quit during Trump administration

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Despite death threats and backlash from White House advisers over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he never considered resigning.

“I just felt that we have to have somebody there who is actually getting the correct information to the American public,” Fauci told “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl on Sunday.

“I have felt, and still do, a very strong responsibility to the American public, not to any administration or any person, but to the American public.”

The former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said he was “afraid that despite the pressures and all the somewhat unusual things that were going on, if I did walk away from it, there would be little opportunity to get the correct, potentially life-saving information to the American public.”

Fauci chronicled his decades-long public health career in a new memoir, “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service.” His book comes after he retired in 2022 as director of NIAID, a position he had held since 1984.

During that time, Fauci advised seven presidents and guided the nation’s response to infectious disease outbreaks including AIDS, Zika, Ebola and COVID-19.

The last president he served under was Joe Biden. After a debate showing that has prompted calls from several Democratic pundits, opinion writers and The New York Times Editorial Board for Biden to step aside as the party’s nominee this cycle, Karl asked Fauci if he was “surprised” by the president’s performance Thursday night.

“I don’t want to comment on anything that would have any political implication. … The one thing I can say and feel comfortable about is I have dealt with President Biden, and in my dealings with him, it’s been really very positive,” Fauci said. “He asked probing questions, he’s right on point on things. So, my personal experience has been quite positive with him.”

When asked by Karl why someone in their 80s — Biden is 81 — would want to serve as president for another four years, Fauci said he thinks it is “an individual choice that you really can’t generalize.”

“You have to take each individual person,” he continued. “You know, how they feel, what they feel they can do. You know, what their passion is, what their energy is, those are the kinds of things.”

Despite retiring from his government position, Fauci has remained a lightning rod for mainly Republican critics of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled. Testifying before a House subcommittee earlier this month, Fauci grew emotional describing the death threats that he and his family received during his time as NIAID director.

During that hearing, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called for Fauci to be put in jail. “That man does not deserve to have a license. As a matter of fact, it should be revoked, and he belongs in jail,” she said.

When asked about Greene’s remarks on Sunday morning, Fauci spoke about the harm that he said can come from such comments.

“I mean, that’s bizarre, and that bizarreness leads to other crazies threatening and saying things that are also inappropriate,” he told Karl.

Karl also asked Fauci about comments former White House chief strategist and longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon made on his show “War Room” about Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray in late 2020 suggesting that they be beheaded and their heads be put “on pikes.” At the time, Twitter (now X) suspended Bannon’s podcast account, and YouTube took down the episode that seemed to imply Fauci and Wray be beheaded.

In an interview with Bannon that also aired on “This Week” Sunday, Karl pressed Bannon about those comments.

“You’re saying at a time when Anthony Fauci and his family are facing death threats, when Christopher Wray and FBI agents all the way down are facing death threats, and you’re going out and talking about putting their heads on pikes?” Karl pressed.

“A total metaphor. Anybody understands that,” Bannon responded. “That’s, that’s your overreach, by the way. They banned us, I think, on Twitter. They banned us on Facebook for that. And hey, guess what? The show got even bigger.”

On Sunday, Fauci criticized Bannon’s response, saying that his words went beyond metaphorical speech.

“These people that say they can say anything they want but it’s a figure of speech,” Fauci said. “Don’t buy that. That’s nonsense. Words matter.”

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