Dr. Anthony Fauci defended his response and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, criticizing claims that he was in any way political.
“I think the misconception is that I was misleading people to say that I, who have been adviser to seven presidents and have never, ever veered one way or the other from an ideological standpoint for somebody to say that, you know, I’m political – yeah, political,” Fauci said during an interview with “This Week” about his tenure as one of the nation’s top health experts. “I mean, that’s completely crazy.”
Fauci announced in August that he would step down from his posts as the chief medical adviser to the president and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the position being one he held for nearly 40 years.
That tenure saw him take a pivotal role in the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed the lives of over one million American citizens and 15 million people worldwide. Fauci’s leadership stirred up controversy over masking policies, school closures, and lockdowns.
School closures, which forced students to learn remotely, have been said by some experts to have led to learning loss in children. Fauci insisted that he always supported keeping schools open and instead stressed the need to make schools safe.
“If you go back, and I ask anybody to go back over the number of times that I’ve said, we’ve got to do everything we can to keep the schools open. No one plays that clip,” Fauci said. “They always come back and say Fauci was responsible for closing schools.”
“It was the most important thing is to protect the children … and the way you do that, you get the people who interact with the children to be vaccinated and masks, you provide ventilation in the schools, you try to keep them in the schools safely,” he continued. “The most important thing is to protect the children.”
The greatest “misfortune” of the pandemic for Fauci was the fact that the pandemic occurred in an election year, which led to a “triple whammy” as the nation grew more divided and the crisis “got political very, very quickly.”
Prior to announcing his retirement, Fauci said he would leave his post if former President Trump won the 2024 election, saying that the administration’s response “wasn’t optimal.”
At the same time, Fauci said Sunday that the Trump administration “should be very proud” of Operation Warp Speed, which saw health services receive unprecedented levels of funding in order to develop the COVID-19 vaccines.
“His administration made it a priority,” Fauci said, adding that he didn’t want to “take any credit away” from Trump, though, he noted it was the administration that pushed for the operation and that Trump “went along with it.”
“That was a positive thing, Operation Warp Speed,” Fauci said.
Fauci revealed he decided to “bow out” ahead of the now-famous press conference in which Trump suggested injecting disinfectants to clean the virus out – a comment he later claimed was “sarcastic.”
“I was at the White House, yeah,” Fauci explained. “I didn’t want to go up on the air with this because I had a bad feeling about when Homeland Security brought this guy in, [and] he briefed the people in the Situation Room beforehand.”
The Homeland Security “guy” referred to William Bryan, the acting Homeland Security Undersecretary for Science and Technology, who discussed the effects of sunlight, temperature, humidity, and bleach on the coronavirus.
“As soon as I heard it, I said, Holy – This is going to go bad, why don’t I bow out of this one,” Fauci said.
When asked how he wants to be remembered, Fauci said he wanted people to think of him as “someone who gave everything they had for the public health of the American public and, indirectly, for the rest of the world.”
“I just want people to know that I gave it everything I had and didn’t leave anything on the field,” he concluded.