President Trump on Saturday rejected reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci — the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — was muzzled from speaking to the public about the dangers of the coronavirus.
“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.”
The New York Times on Thursday reported that Fauci had been instructed by the White House not to say anything else without clearance after he had said the virus had adapted well to human species and had a higher mortality rate than influenza.
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 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.
Trump also pushed back against criticism for referring to the coronavirus as Democrats’ “new hoax” in a rally in South Carolina the night before.
Some Democrats had taken that comment as referring to the virus itself, but Trump clarified on Saturday that he was not calling it a hoax, but the politicized response to it by Democrats.
“No no no, hoax referring to the action they take to try and pin this on somebody because we’ve done such a good job,” he said. “The hoax is on them, I’m not talking about what’s happening here, I’m talking about what they’re doing, that’s the hoax.”
“That’s just a continuation of the hoax, whether it’s the impeachment hoax or the Russia Russia Russia hoax, this is what I’m talking about –certainly not referring to this, how could anyone refer to this, this is very serious stuff,” he said.