White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that a new Trump campaign ad takes his comments “out of context” and used his remarks without his approval.
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement to NBC News.
“The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials,” he added.
The ad supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, entitled “Carefully,” was released on Saturday and touts the president’s management of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 30-second ad includes a clip of Fauci saying that he “can’t imagine anybody could be doing more” to address the pandemic, which has now killed more than 210,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The full extent of Fauci’s remarks, made during a March interview Fauci did on Fox’s “Life, Liberty and Levin,” show the White House virus advisor talking about the entire federal government’s response to Covid-19. Fauci was not, as the ad suggested, offering direct praise for the president.
Still, the Trump campaign countered that the words are his own and taken from a nationally televised broadcast.
“These are Dr. Fauci’s own words. The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump Administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump 2020 communications director, said in a statement.
“As Dr. Fauci recently testified in the Senate, President Trump took the virus seriously from the beginning, acted quickly, and saved lives,” Murtaugh added.
Trump, who’s had a fickle relationship with the public health advisor, may be attempting to tap Fauci’s popularity among voters to help offer his campaign new life.
The president has for months trailed Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden in national polls. Biden has extended his lead over Trump in recent weeks following the first presidential debate in late September and Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis.
An average calculated by RealClearPolitics.com showed the spread between Biden and Trump grew from 6.8 percentage points before the debate to 9.8 as of Sunday.
Trump’s lagging polling numbers also come as the U.S. is reporting more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases as a seven-day average, a rate that could worsen as temperatures cool in the northern U.S. and force people indoors.
On Friday, the U.S. reported 57,420 new cases, the highest daily number in nearly two months.
The Trump campaign also issued a press release over the weekend listing several examples of when they say Fauci applauded the administration’s effort to combat the disease.
The president’s campaign claimed that Biden’s promises to listen to Fauci are doubtful since the former vice president “contradicts” the health expert so often.
Fauci told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell last week that he’s “not comfortable with that. I would like to see that level, way, way down, well below 10,000.”
“In certain regions of the country, like the Midwest the Northwest, and even now we’re starting to see a little difficulty in the northeast in New York. Then you get concerned because it is more difficult to deal with respiratory borne virus, as people begin to go indoors more,” he said Thursday. “And if you start seeing upticks, the way we’re seeing it, and you have a baseline that’s 40,000 and stuck at 40,000, that’s not the optimal position to be in as you enter into the fall and winter.”