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Fauci says Trump campaign is “harassing” him with unauthorized ad

National News

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 31: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump administration officials are set to defend the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis at the hearing hosted by a House panel calling for a national plan to contain the virus. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CBS) Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, says the president’s unauthorized use of his comments in a campaign ad is a form of harassment. “By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me,” he told The Daily Beast in a report posted on Monday. 

Fauci also said he thinks that the approach could backfire and be detrimental to President Trump’s reelection chances. “By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me,” he said. “Since campaign ads are about getting votes, their harassment of me might have the opposite effect of turning some voters off.”

Fauci said Sunday that the comment is out of context and was used without his permission.

“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate. 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,” Fauci said in a statement to CNN.

He told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday that the campaign’s decision to use his comments is “very disappointing.”

“It’s so clear that I’m not a political person. I have never either directly or indirectly endorsed a political candidate,” he said. “To take a completely out of context statement and put it in, which is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought was really very disappointing.”

Despite Fauci’s public rejection of the ad, Tapper said he has learned that the Trump campaign has plans to feature him in yet another promotion. “That would be terrible. That would be outrageous if they do that,” Fauci said in response to the news, and he added, “In fact, that might actually come back to backfire on them. I hope they don’t do that because that would be kind of playing a game that we don’t want to play…  I hope they reconsider that and not do that.”

During the same interview, Fauci also commented that he thinks the president’s rallies are “asking for trouble.” 

Mr. Trump held an hour-long rally in Sanford, Florida, on Monday, his first trip from the White House since his COVID-19 diagnosis. The president joked that he felt so “powerful” and “immune” that he might “kiss” everyone in the audience. 

“I went through it. Now they say I’m immune,” he said. “I feel so powerful I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful woman and the — I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.” Despite CDC guidelines, CBS Miami reports that Trump supporters were not distant and many were not wearing face coverings.

CBS News spoke with some of the supporters who spent hours in line for the president’s rally. Bill Cerelli, of Tampa, in response to a question about the White House’s COVID-19 protocols and large gatherings, said with a shrug, “Seems like everyone was tested. It’s an invisible plague. I’m not sure how much more you can do.” 

Fauci said that, “purely in the context of public health,” holding rallies, which draw thousands of supporters to gather, often disregarding mask and social distancing guidelines, is unsafe. 

“We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings, where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves,” he said. “… And now is even more so a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the United States it’s really very troublesome.”

President Trump slapped at Fauci with a tweet Tuesday: “Actually, Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications. ‘No problem, no masks’. WHO no longer likes Lockdowns – just came out against. Trump was right. We saved 2,000,000 USA lives!!!”

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in 39 states and only three are seeing fewer cases. The country is seeing roughly twice as many new cases today as it did at the start of April.

The Midwest, in particular, has been hit hard in recent weeks; but there are also flare-ups in the Northeast, where average daily cases are up nearly 40% in the last month. Average daily deaths are rising in 10 states compared to two weeks ago, and the nation is seeing nearly 50,000 new cases a day. 

“It’s going in the wrong direction right now,” Fauci said of the surge. “So if there’s anything we should be doing, we should be doubling down in implementing the public health measures that we’ve been talking about for so long. Which are: Keeping a distance, no crowds, wearing masks, washing hands, doing things outside as opposed to inside.”

“We’re entering into the cool months of the fall, and ultimately the cold months of the winter, and that’s just a recipe of a real problem if we don’t get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge.”

Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.

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