Dr. Anthony Fauci, the outgoing White House chief medical adviser, said former President Donald Trump's communications team conducted opposition research on him after he contradicted Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci made a guest appearance on "The Axe Files" podcast Thursday to discuss his leadership during the pandemic and his career as he winds down his 54-year tenure at the National Institutes of Health.
"When he [Trump] stood at the podium and he talked about hydroxychloroquine or when he talked about bleach, when he raised questions about masks and so on, did that make your job harder?" host David Axelrod asked. "Did it make the task of quelling the virus harder?"
"Yeah, it did, David. And that's why I had to make — and I made — a decision which cost me," Fauci said. "It was the right decision. I'd do it again. I was put in a position that was uncomfortable, but I had to do what I did.
"And that is to publicly contradict the president of the United States," he continued. "And as I've said continually, I have a great deal of respect for the office of the presidency of the United States. And it was not a positive thing for me to be standing there and saying, 'No, hydroxychloroquine doesn't work. No, the virus is not going to disappear like magic. Yes, we need to continue to test. By stopping testing, that doesn't mean there are no cases. It means you're not noticing the cases.'"
This public break with Trump created "outright hostility" against him within the White House, Fauci said.
"Well, what about waves of hostility from the president?" Axelrod asked. "Did he exchange any New York-isms with you?"
"Well, occasionally he did. But, you know, it was much more the ... outright hostility that was unleashed against me," Fauci said. "It was kind of an interesting ... palace intrigue, where you had the communication staff of the White House doing opposition research on me."
Fauci then turned the questioning around on Axelrod.
"Could you imagine when you were in the White House, David, doing operation opposition research on one of your staff?" Fauci asked.
"Well, when I was there, we had our hands full; so I don't think I'd be spending time on that," Axelrod said. "No."
According to CNN, Axelrod served as a chief strategist and senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. He currently serves as director of the University of Chicago's nonpartisan Institute of Politics and as the host of "The Axe Files," a podcast jointly produced by CNN and the institute.
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