Donald Trump criticised Anthony Fauci for initially telling Americans they did not need to wear a mask to protect themselves from coronavirus, while also accusing the top federal infectious disease official of being a Democrat.
“Tony. Tony Fauci. He’s a nice guy,” the president said sarcastically during an afternoon campaign rally in North Carolina.
He then mockingly paraphrased the federal health official: “This is not a threat. This is not a problem. Don’t worry about it.”
“Then he said, ‘Do not wear a mask under any circumstances. Don’t wear a mask – don’t, don’t. don’t,’” the president said. “So we don’t wear a mask. Then they say, ‘Wear a mask.’”
“See any conflicts? He’s a nice guy so I keep him around,” the president said before contradicting Mr Fauci’s own description of his political affiliation: “He’s a Democrat.”
But Mr Fauci has described himself as something of an independent.
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates,” he said in a statement
“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.”
Mr Fauci, who has long pushed to be apolitical expressed his “disappointment” that his words were being used as political pawns in campaign ads.
“I think it’s really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that,” Mr Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“It’s so clear I’m not a political person and I have never, either directly or indirectly, endorsed a candidate. And 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.”